Belfast Telegraph

Haass talks can only succeed if talking stays in the room 

by colum eastwood

The Haass talks can only succeed if parties all stay talking within the room and resist the urge to spin rhetoric outside.

The SDLP have been relentlessly positive about the Haass talks process from the very beginning, believing that real ambition was required if the process was to be successful.

Staying positive and hopeful has been challenging. It has been particularly difficult in recent weeks with dissident activity in Belfast and Derry.

Last weekend the people of Belfast came under attack with the explosion of a bomb as locals and tourists enjoyed a Christmas night out.

In the face of such violence, the resilience of the people of Belfast has sent a clear marker that no one wants to go back to the bad old days.

As elected representatives we need to send a strong message to those behind this attack, similar security alerts and shots that have been fired in west and north Belfast.

The Haass process will allow us to send this message by finding a compromise and delivering on the fully on the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Haass process provides that hope for the future which is why it is so important that all of the parties protect the integrity of the process.

In my view it is not a good idea for the first minister to rubbish the first draft document from Dr Haass with such colourful and emotive language.

Spinning rhetoric will not produce results.

Staying in the room, talking, discussing the issues and negotiating the outcomes is what is in the true interests of all of the people.

Many of those who suffered throughout the conflict are still suffering. That is why the SDLP put and continues to put such a strong focus on the need to prioritise the needs and interests of victims and survivors.

The involvement of those voices has been the outstanding factor of this process so with over 600 submissions and the reaction of victims and survivors to the outcome of Haass will be how it will be ultimately judged.

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