Published Saturday, 28 December 2013
Measures intended to ease months of simmering resentment and violence are extraordinarily close to gaining support, the former US envoy to Northern Ireland said.
He added that the missing ingredient was not more time, urging politicians to grasp the opportunity to do a deal.
A marathon talks session starting at 6am on Monday will bring six months of increasingly intense negotiations to a head after Dr Haass and co-chair Professor Meghan O'Sullivan cut short their Christmas break to kick-start one last round of crunch discussions.
They arrived back in the province on Saturday morning.
"At some point we have got to fish or cut bait, that time has come," Dr Haass said.
“We're never going to reach the point where everyone is going to be thrilled with every word, that is either in or out. No one ever is going to get 100 per cent of what he or she wants in this or, I would add, any negotiation.
“But at some point you've got to say ‘Have I met my basic requirements and would we, in this case the society here in Northern Ireland, be better off with an agreement such as can be negotiated.’
“And both of us believe strongly that we have essentially come to that point."
Peter Robinson, First Minister and DUP leader, said: “My focus is on content rather than the clock. It has to be right, it's not going to be agreed unless it is right.
“The team won't recommend it to me, or me to the party, unless we are satisfied with the content of it."
Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin MLA, added: "This is about delivering for our people, people will want to see these issues dealt with and I think this presents a [the] greatest opportunity we will possibly ever have."
UTV’s political editor Ken Reid said: “The key meeting appears to be on Monday – at 6am where they’ve set aside six hours to reach a deal.
“He [Dr Haass] says that, time doesn’t really matter, but the deal should be completed by noon by Monday.”
Dr Haass and Prof O'Sullivan left Belfast on Tuesday morning, to spend Christmas with their families, after an overnight round-table session with the five Executive parties failed to produce a deal.
But they said that they would consider returning if they believed an eleventh hour deal could yet be struck.
© UTV News