Most work done but Haass deal ‘too close to call’

The UUP's party leader Mike Nesbitt and Tom Elliott

The UUP's party leader Mike Nesbitt and Tom Elliott

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt sounded an optimistic note at the weekend when he said that the parties could be almost the entire way towards reaching a deal.

The political negotiations in Belfast were, he said, “80 to 90 per cent over the line”.

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

Party colleague Tom Elliott, part of the negotiating team, told the News Letter that he found elements of the talks on the subject of dealing with the past “difficult”, adding the plans “could be bettered”.

He was asked on Sunday about how confident he was of coming away with a definite deal .

He responded: “There’s still a number of hours left to go, and I think we’ll just have to see what can come out of it. But clearly, it’s too close to call. I wouldn’t like to be making that judgment.”

Dr Haass warned the individual parties will not get all they want and difficult choices will have to be made but the alternative to agreement had been seen in recent trouble on the streets.

“We hope this opportunity is seized, as time does not work in anyone’s favour,” he said.

“The last year has shown that flags and parades have the potential to further inflame an already divided society.

“Time also works against the ability to capture the past, as memory fades, as evidence is lost and lives end.”

Mr Elliott also indicated that any firm agreement on flags seemed unlikely to be reached by the deadline, but that a longer-term process to look into it could be set up in Haass’ absence.

The News Letter had been previously told that one suggestion in the talks – since said to have been ditched – was to institute “flag licences” for flying them in public places; something derided as absurd by one unionist close to the talks.




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