More talks needed to make progress on Haass, say DUP, UUP and Alliance

Dr Richard Haass, Chair of The Panel of Parties in the NI Executive
Dr Richard Haass, Chair of The Panel of Parties in the NI Executive

The DUP, UUP and Alliance yesterday insisted that progression on the Haass proposals will require further talks to resolve disagreements, while Sinn Fein and the SDLP still believe that the final document should be implemented in full.

They were speaking yesterday after talks chairman and former US diplomat Richard Haass said on Thursday night that parties must justify their decisions not to fully endorse his proposals.

Talks he chaired broke up on New Year’s Eve without agreement on the issues of dealing with the past, flags and parades.

Dr Haass said on Thursday: “Why three [parties] in particular were not prepared to endorse this agreement that quite honestly, I and we feel, gave them more than enough to go out and defend it, not to just the general public but to their own particular constituencies.”

He told the BBC: “The two unionist parties and the Alliance were not prepared to sign on to the agreement and I make it clear this was, if you will, collectively their agreement.”

DUP leader Peter Robinson responded yesterday that it “says an awful lot if the two nationalist parties are jumping up and down ready to sign up to a deal but no unionist is prepared to go with it”.

He added: “That indicates that it wasn’t a balanced final output, but there are many elements of the Haass proposals that are acceptable.”

The DUP leader said Sinn Fein and the SDLP had to reach agreement with unionists, not Dr Haass.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt responded: “We think there is room to agree on parades and protests, with two criteria needing further examination, along with more thought on the Code of Conduct.”

Nationalists gave no ground on the Union Flag reflecting Northern Ireland’s status in the UK, he said.

And he expressed concern about structures and language regarding the past, noting the 2000 Terrorism Act makes clear “what is and is not terrorism”.

Alliance deputy leader, Naomi Long MP, summed up their stance with “a green light to the proposals on the past, an amber light on parades as questions remain over the commitment of parties to support the rule of law, and a red light on flags as there was no agreement, just a commitment to more talking”.

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said that as two governments back the proposals on the past, this should be taken forward.

He added: “A five-party working group must be established and must focus on implementation and legislation and work to tight timelines in order to create certainty, remove doubt, and build hope.”

Sinn Fein confirmed yesterday that it believes the proposals should be implemented without delay.