Belfast Telegraph

Gilmore backs Haass talks

Talks to resolve Northern Ireland's most troublesome problems have the full backing of the Irish government, the Republic's Foreign Minister has said.

Speaking after a meeting with the negotiations' chairman Dr Richard Haass in New York earlier, Eamon Gilmore said they were committed to making progress on the major difficulties.

"Dr Haass and his team have the full support of the Irish government in the task that lies ahead," he said.

The meeting comes after Dr Haass and his team spent last week in Belfast gauging opinion on flags, parades and the legacy of the past. He held more than 30 engagements with politicians from the five Executive parties at Stormont, senior clergy, the Orange Order and business leaders and is expected to hold further meetings in Belfast, London and Dublin when he returns again next month.

Dr Haass has until Christmas to deliver recommendations on how to deal with the three contentious issues left outstanding from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Gilmore, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, added: "I was very glad to hear first hand from Dr Haass his considered view on the talks process which began last week in Belfast, and to get his assessment of the way forward.

"Having met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland earlier this week I stressed that both governments are determined to maintain and build on all the hard-won progress which has been achieved in Northern Ireland."

Mr Gilmore had previously urged caution about hopes that Dr Haass alone could deliver a resolution to all of the the problems still facing the peace process.

Northern Ireland has endured a particularly turbulent year with months of loyalist rioting linked to the Union flag dispute and parading controversies. Republicans have also been criticised for not stopping an IRA commemoration in Co Tyrone despite appeals from relatives of terror victims last month.

Political relations in the power-sharing institutions at Stormont have also become frayed after First Minister Peter Robinson withdrew his support for a controversial peace centre on the site of the former paramilitary prison at the Maze .

Yesterday, senior Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the situation at Stormont had reached crisis point but the claim was strongly refuted by unionists.


From Belfast Telegraph