The five main political parties engaged in talks with former US diplomat Richard Haass on parades, flags and the past have been branded “pathetic” after they failed to reach an agreement on the issues before Christmas.
NI conservatives co-chair Trevor Ringland and NI21’s leader Basil McCrea have both spoken out after late-night crunch talks failed to result in a deal.
Dr Haass and talks vice-chair Meghan O’Sullivan have today flown back to America to spend Christmas with their families.
It is thought they will continue to engage with the parties via email, compiling a fifth set of proposals and may return to Northern Ireland next weekend if they think a deal is possible.
The original deadline for a deal was December 31.
It has been reported the most difficult of the three strands to reach agreement on has been flags, something Mr Ringland said is “particularly ridiculous”.
“There is absolutely no excuse for any party not to sign up to flying the Union Flag on designated days, right across the province,” he said. “That is the most sensible and the fairest solution.
“The people of Northern Ireland are absolutely fed up with political parties that don’t deliver. In fact I detect that the whole Haass process was viewed with scepticism and boredom by the vast majority. The only thing we can be grateful for is that the parties didn’t concoct some sort of Christmas fudge to hide their blushes. Northern Ireland is crying out for real politics, which get on with creating jobs, addressing social issues and delivering good public services. The current parties at Stormont simply aren’t delivering that.”
Mr McCrea said he fears even if a deal is reached after Christmas, the long-term implementation of that may prove difficult.
He said: “Politics in Northern Ireland remains largely entrenched and my concern is that while the main parties might cobble together an agreement of sorts in the new year, it will provide limited momentum to the Executive.
“This has been a strange period – the circumstances by which the Haass talks have come about were largely down to the weak leadership of local politicians on the issue of flags and parades.
“To invite a seasoned diplomat in to help clean up your own mess and then turn down all his proposals makes politics here look extremely intransigent.
“It is clear that the current crop of political parties are not the long-term answer to Northern Ireland breaking free from its past.”