Belfast Telegraph

Peace body boss's proposal to end political logjam in Northern Ireland

By Noel McAdam

A former senior police officer who now heads a cross-border peace body has come up with a proposal aimed at breaking the talks deadlock at Stormont.

Peter Sheridan, once the highest-ranking Catholic officer in Northern Ireland, said Sinn Fein and the DUP could spell out how they intend to protect the rights of each other's communities.

The criss-cross exercise would then help gauge the extent of the gap between the two main parties which, along with the SDLP, UUP and Alliance, are due to resume negotiations in the next few weeks.

Writing on political commentator Eamonn Mallie's website, Mr Sheridan said: "It would be interesting if the next set of talks began by asking each of the political parties to momentarily put aside thinking about its own rights and instead set out how it intends to protect the rights of the other community.

"What are the practical and legislative measures nationalists and republicans could bring forward that would demonstrate to their neighbours that they seek to protect the cultural rights, traditions and identities of the Protestant loyalist community, including the rights of the loyal orders?

"Similarly, what measures could unionism bring forward that would show they genuinely and honestly want to protect the cultural rights, identities and traditions of their nationalist, republican neighbours?"

Mr Sheridan, who is chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, referred to philosopher Onora O'Neill's comment that knowing who to trust had become harder "because we have some very skilful faking going on".

"In our own context, it is difficult to know in terms of Brexit or with the prospects for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive where the 'very skilful faking' is, and likewise it is difficult to distinguish between 'genuine' and 'fraudulent' claims," he added.

"Which of the various party political positions do we judge as honest, reliable, and competent?

"The answer, of course, may be that, given they speak from their own narrative, they may all to a greater or lesser extent be honest, reliable and competent.

"If this is correct it is difficult to see how the next round of political talks will make progress unless something radically different is injected into the process."

The former Assistant Chief Constable had more than 32 years' experience in the police before quitting in 2008.

He later joined Co-operation Ireland, a cross-border charity that aims to promote better relations between people on both sides of the border. "We are very good in Northern Ireland at championing our own side's rights, our right to protest, our right to parade, our right to our culture," Mr Sheridan added.

"Surely, good rights are when we seek to protect the other person's rights, and of course when the other person seeks to protect ours?" Mr Sheridan also refers to dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in the article.

It is one of the key issues at the core of the failure of the parties to reach agreement since the Executive fell in January.

The full article is available at www.eamonnmallie.com

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