All five parties equally at fault for failure of Haass talks – Robinson

Meghan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass
Meghan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass

First Minister Peter Robinson has rebuked those criticising others over the failure of the Haass talks, and urged all parties to move forward on the basis of what has been achieved.

There has been widespread condemnation of politicians for failing to reach agreement in the talks, chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass, which broke up on New Year’s Eve.

And some of the parties involved have been critical of each other’s role in the talks, intended to reach agreement on the issues of flags, parades and dealing with the past.

But DUP leader Mr Robinson said yesterday: “Where there has been failure to reach agreement it lies at the feet of the political parties alone – and in equal measure.”

He added: “While the final Haass document contains many propositions that the DUP can support and endorse, there remain others that would neither be an improvement nor workable and would not help in resolving the problems they were crafted to solve.

“We are satisfied that the broad architecture is capable of housing long-term workable arrangements, yet the detailed components as drafted which would determine how those structures would operate need much more work before they could function in the best interests of the community.”

He emphasised what he saw as the equal role of all parties in the process to date and recommended his party support further talks in an all-party working group.

On Monday night the UUP rejected the proposals as “not viable and therefore unacceptable”. The party called on the First and Deputy First Minister to “sort out the mess” saying it would examine any further proposals.

Sinn Fein’s talks team will advise its executive to endorse the report when it meets on January 11.

The SDLP backed the report on January 2.

The Alliance Party is supporting further talks despite reservations on flags and parades.

All three non-unionist parties in the Haass process yesterday rounded on the UUP for rejecting the final report.

On December 29 UUP leader Mike Nesbitt had said “80, maybe even 90 per cent of it, is ready to go over the line”.

He added: “So there’s not a lot left, but what is left is serious from our point of view.”

Yesterday Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly slammed the UUP, saying Dr Haass had asked the various negotiating teams to take his report “and recommend it to their respective party leaderships”.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood accused the UUP of “a Pontius Pilate moment” in suggesting the problem should be handed over to the First and Deputy First Ministers.

While Alliance’s Stephen Farry said that, in strongly rejecting the report, the UUP are “showing their disdain for the people of Northern Ireland who want to see the difficult issues facing this society addressed”.

Meanwhile, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell rounded on Gerry Kelly’s declaration last night that “the negotiations are over”, saying: “Simply downing tools, stamping feet and refusing to talk any further is not a mature approach.”