Ford presses for all-party talks date

Ford presses for all-party talks date

Alliance leader David Ford has said if no date is agreed to resume all-party talks on contentious issues this week, his party will call on the British Government to intervene.

He said that the Executive leaders agreed that two periods of intensive meetings would be held in June but as yet, the First and deputy First Ministers have not produced any recommendations for the timing or format of such discussions."Three weeks after Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness agreed to convene all-party talks, nothing has been done," Mr Ford said."Six months after the end of the Haass discussions, we are no further on with these critical issues. If dates for the all-party talks are not agreed this week, then we will be left with no option but to call on the British Government to convene a new process with the involvement of the five parties and the Irish Government."Given the threat to community relations from another summer of unrest, it is scandalous that the First and deputy First Ministers have left these issues sitting on the shelf."If they will not organise these all-party talks that they promised three weeks ago, then the British Government must take the responsibility of doing so."He added: "Six months of leaders meetings have achieved nothing. This cannot go on indefinitely. The legacy of the past, disputes over parades and the row over flags, hurt our political system on a daily basis and prevent us from reaching an agreed way forward. The victims of the past deserve better than this."His comments come after Dr Richard Haass, who was brought in to chair the all-party talks which ultimately failed to deliver consensus last year, was awarded with the Tipperary Peace Award in acknowledgement of his efforts on Monday.In his acceptance speech, Dr Haass said he would give up the award in exchange for political leaders in the region to reach a deal.He urged politicians to show leadership and to finish the process on the remaining contentious issues of flags, parades and the past."Complacency is a luxury we cannot afford," Dr Haass stressed during the ceremony at Tipperary's Ballykisteen Hotel."Northern Ireland has not yet reached a point in which peace and tranquillity can be taken for granted. It is all too easy to imagine how a parade or protest could spark violence; it is all too easy to imagine how local violence could grow and spread."Violence could also lead to an increase in paramilitarism, as there are groups who would embrace the opportunity to demonstrate what they see as their continued relevance."Developments such as these would only discourage investment, drain public resources, motivate the most talented young people to make their futures elsewhere, and harden the divisions within society."

© UTV

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