'Get on' with Haass deal - Eames/Bradley

'Get on' with Haass deal - Eames/Bradley

Authors of a landmark report on dealing with the past have told NI political parties to "get on with it" and resolve the outstanding issues on the Haass proposals.

In 2009, a report on how to move forward with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles by Denis Bradley and Robin Eames was published, costing almost £1.3m.The Consultative Group on the Past's document recommended a £12,000 reconciliation payment to families of those killed in the Troubles, including relatives of paramilitaries.Another proposal was the development of an independent legacy commission to investigate unsolved killings and a reconciliation forum to tackle social issues arising from the conflict.There were a total of 246 respondents to the consultation - most of the 174 individuals who responded were opposed to its contents.Reflecting on it five years later, Lord Eames said in a sense it had been "beyond its time" and even "at the wrong time"."It was never easy facing anger, disappointment, deep hurt, but I think both of us had kind of been used to that over the years," Mr Bradley explained.He said his experience working in therapy over the years as well as Lord Eames' years as a Church of Ireland Primate were good preparation for the feedback they received.Lord Eames added: "You had to read behind it, there was a hurt and a rawness that came to the surface. And there was also orchestration in some instances, let's be honest about it. But many of the people who perhaps had reservations in those early days, are among those who are now saying to us 'you got it right - we just weren't ready for it'.Mr Bradley agreed with this sentiment: "I think it's remarkable when you look at the prevailing opinions now, how much of what we tried to say then is surfacing again."Politics needs momentum. Particularly politics in a divided society, if you lose momentum, you become stagnant.Denis BradleyIn another attempt to resolve important issues in the peace process, former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, along with his co-chair and international affairs expert, Professor Megan O'Sullivan, were tasked with finding a consensus on the past, parades and flags.From September last year, the group met with the main political parties, victims' groups, campaigners and members of the public to try to find a consensus.Despite marathon sessions of talks, seven draft sets of proposals and a failure to meet the Christmas deadline the process ended without an agreement being reached.Following the process, Dr Haass presented his final proposals to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister and urged the Executive and the parties to build on the work of his project.Dr Haass has published a two-page factsheet outlining his main proposals.He said his draft agreement: "Would leave the people of NI considerably better off than they are today by tackling the difficult issues that continue to divide society."Speaking about the talks, Bradley and Eames offered the following advice to the five main party leaders who have failed to agree on the document.Lord Eames said: "Be honest - be really honest with yourself and with others and think more about what that honesty is saying to you about the possibilities of making change, rather than looking over your should at what the electorate will say."While Mr Bradley said politicians should "get on with it and do it" and obtain financial backing from the British and Irish governments as well as Europe."I think that actually Europe, America, Ireland and Britain want us to do this deal now," he said."I think they saw the Haass thing not happening and there's a lot of disappointment in the global political world."That disappointment will disappear if people see us actually moving on very soon and I think they will be prepared to back it and I think that's an opportunity for good things to happen."Mr Bradley added that not finding a way forward with Haass would be a "tragedy" as there would be no "great belief in politics left in Northern Ireland"."The belief in politics has been badly kicked and that has consequences on the streets."The reputation and health of politics is at stake".Lord Eames added: "What's really at stake is the future, the stable sort of society where people can acknowledge their different traditions. We've got to try and get a situation where really good positive things on both sides of this community are given a chance to co-exist."

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