McGuinness: Haass proposals should be implemented

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said a proposed peace agreement in Northern Ireland should be implemented as it stands.

He urged other political leaders to show leadership as the Ulster Unionist Party prepared to meet to discuss plans drafted following all-party discussions chaired by a former US diplomat.

Dr Richard Haass was enlisted by the power-sharing administration at Stormont to help find a resolution on contentious issues like flag-flying, parades and dealing with a history of armed conflict.

Mr McGuinness said: “Richard Haass has delivered his final text. This is the time we need political leadership.

“That means standing with the vast majority who want to see progress, not with the rejectionist elements within the Orange Order who wish to see this process fail.

“In recent days I have heard talk about the establishment of a working group on the Haass proposals. The negotiation has ended.

“The only purpose in establishing an all-party working group is to ensure the implementation of the document as it stands, not to reopen negotiations on its contents.”

Sinn Fein was the first party to support the draft agreement following the conclusion of discussions between the five main parties on New Year’s Eve.

Democratic Unionist Party leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has said that despite the lack of unanimous agreement the Dr Haass-led process was not a failure and a working group is to be established.

Mr McGuinness claimed: “I have a concern that the agenda for both unionist parties is being set not by this requirement but by the needs and demands of the Orange Order.

“It is clear that there are elements of the Orange Order and extreme loyalism who do not want to see progress, they do not want to see agreement and they are hostile to the idea of peace building and a shared future.

“Adopting a negotiating strategy which is driven by these negative elements is a huge mistake.”

An Orange Order spokesman said it engaged positively with the Haass process from the outset and outlined its position through face-to-face meetings and separate submissions on parading, flags and emblems and the past.

“While the issues concerned are very difficult to resolve, and have proved to be so, we pray a fair and balanced resolution can still be found in keeping with a genuinely shared future,” he added.

“Despite losing 337 of our members as a result of terrorism, predominantly through violence orchestrated by the IRA, we remain committed to playing our part in making Northern Ireland a better place for everyone. In return, all we ask for is respect and tolerance for our culture and traditions.

“Rather than a shabby attempt to deflect attention away from his own murky past, Mr McGuinness would be better served to come forward and tell the truth, for the sake of all innocent victims and the justice they deserve, regarding the heinous crimes inflicted by republicans.”