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Dublin minister urges new all-party talks at Stormont in autumn

By Noel McAdam

The Dublin Government has set a target date of September for the resumption of inter-party talks at Stormont on flags, parades and dealing with the past.

On his first visit to Northern Ireland yesterday as Irish Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan also said he wanted to see a North South Ministerial Council meeting take place by October.

The last meeting of the cross-border body was cancelled the day after the DUP and Ulster Unionists walked out of multi-party talks in protest at the Parades Commission's refusal to permit the July 12 return Orange Order parade in Ardoyne.

Just a week after his appointment, Mr Flanagan was meeting Secretary of State Theresa Villiers for the first time at Stormont House.

He also met First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – separately – as well as Alliance Party and SDLP delegations.

Afterwards, Mr McGuinness said he told Mr Flanagan it would be a "mistake" to think a resolution of the issues will come by satisfying only the demands of unionists, loyalists and the Orange Order.

"What is needed is an approach in which there is meaningful dialogue at both political level and at a local level and where all the political parties work together, supported by the governments, to find agreement," he added.

Ms Villiers neither backed nor poured cold water on Mr Flanagan's demand for the inter-party negotiations to get under way again by September – nine months after the Haass talks ended without agreement on New Year's Eve.

Mr Flanagan told a Press conference: "It is important that we set a date of September for the resumption of talks and that will be high on my agenda.

"It is imperative that all-party talks at leadership level be reconvened at the earliest opportunity."

But TUV leader Jim Allister said there was no question of the unionist parties resuming talks. "The issues like flags and parades which were discussed as part of the Haass process are matters internal to Northern Ireland. Charlie Flanagan should mind his own business," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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