Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland politicians may need a harder shove

Liam Clarke
Liam Clarke

By Liam Clarke

The Haass talks have ruined us. They have left a memory of politicians rushing about optimistically, predictions of success and progress from participants.

That ended with the plug being pulled in the early hours and a mutual blame game, which still continues. Raising hopes like that and then dashing them fed growing popular cynicism with the political system.

It doesn't have to be that way again - there will be no excuse if it is - but Naomi Long of Alliance is right to ring the alarm bell. "We are, in real terms, no further on than when the Haass process ended," she said, "with the number of issues included increasing and the will to address them appearing to have diminished."

Ms Long even suggested that it would be better to call a halt to the talks rather than mark time and try to shift responsibility for failure. "Alliance remains committed to getting agreement on these issues but we are fighting an uphill battle," she said. "If other parties aren't committed to making the difficult decisions required to resolve these issues in the best interest of everyone in Northern Ireland, then they must be honest with the public and face the consequences of their actions."

Gary Hart talks today of America having no pre-cooked solution but he, as well as the British and Irish governments, cannot afford to let things drift into another failure. That could end in a resumption of direct rule and a political crisis which our politicians would find it hard to deal with.

In fact it is unlikely that they will make any unpopular decision without significant threats and sweeteners. If they want this thing to work next month it may be time for the governments to start pushing a little harder.

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