US peace envoy Richard Haass rules out Northern Ireland return to lead new peace talks
US peace envoy Richard Haass has ruled out returning to Northern Ireland to broker a deal on parades, flags and the toxic legacy of the Troubles.
A visit by the former diplomat to meet Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore in Dublin provoked speculation that he could chair a fresh round of talks between party chiefs at Stormont after the local and European elections.
But after his meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House yesterday, Dr Haass said while he remained interested in the process, his formal role had ended. Mr Gilmore said Mr Haass had made enormous progress towards an agreement on the outstanding issues in December and urged party leaders in Northern Ireland to knuckle down over the coming weeks to complete the process.
Mr Gilmore previously said there was a window of opportunity between the elections and the loyalist marching season in July.
Previous attempts by Dr Haass and his deputy Meghan O'Sullivan to secure agreement between the five main parties on outstanding issues in the peace process ended without consensus on New Year's Eve.
Draft proposals remain on the table but there's been little to no progress in attempts among party leaders to forge a lasting deal.
Sinn Fein and the SDLP have backed a blueprint but the DUP and UUP have demanded significant changes.
The UUP has also withdrawn from the talks over the controversial deal that saw on-the-run republicans sent letters telling them they were not wanted by police in the UK.