NI 'could return to violence' - Haass

Published Wednesday, 12 March 2014
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Without political progress, time will not be a healer for Northern Ireland and there could be a return to the levels of violence of old, US diplomat Dr Richard Haass has warned Congress in Washington.

NI 'could return to violence' - Haass
Dr Richard Haass gives evidence in the House of Representatives in Washington. (© UTV)

The former talks chairman was left disappointed when months of negotiations failed to result in an agreement on how to deal with controversial and divisive issues like flags, parades and the past.

"Where do things go from here?" Dr Haass said, as he gave evidence to a committee in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

It is a question that has been the subject of much debate - particularly when the political situation further destabilised over the on-the-runs situation.

"I have no crystal ball, but I agree with the First Minister when he says that the three issues at the centre of the talks are issues that have to be dealt with," Dr Haass continued.

"To this I would add a sense of urgency.

"The passage of time will not by itself heal Northern Ireland's society or make it more normal or bring it together."

Absent political progress, the passage of time will only create an environment in which social division intensifies, violence increases, investment is scared off, alienation grows, and the best and brightest leave to make their futures elsewhere.

Dr Richard Haass

According to the US diplomat, Northern Ireland has come a long way along the road to peace - but it still has a long way to go.

"Much of the world looks to Northern Ireland as a model of peace-building, and many in Northern Ireland like to be so viewed. But all this is premature," Dr Haass said.

"Yes, the society has come a long way from where it was two decades ago, but it still has a long ways to go before it can set an example others will want to emulate."

And according to Dr Haass, it is up to the political leaders to decide Northern Ireland's future.

"The stakes are great. Largely depending upon what they choose to do, the future of Northern Ireland will either be that of a vicious circle or a virtuous one," he said.

"I hope they make the right choice, and make it soon."

While a document has been published detailing the recommendations to come out of the Haass talks in Belfast, Dr Haass told the congressional hearing that it was not necessarily his answer.

He said the document put forward his best efforts to deal with the issues while keeping all the invested parties on board - but he may publish his personal recommendations in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are in the US on a five-day visit aimed at strengthening business and tourism links.

© UTV News
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11 Comments
Dorothy in Kansas wrote (229 days ago):
God! you guys are so depressing. Same old stuff, over and over, locked in a time-warp.
s in Belfast wrote (232 days ago):
So what makes you think this Mr Hass? Any chance someone said "They haven't gone away you know". Our country is being held to ransom by those who have no problem supporting murder. "Peace"... you're having a laugh!
stone turner in belfast wrote (232 days ago):
Having commented on your last haass article I wonder will this pass your census on haass this man was put forward as a unbiased mediator. by virtue of his rant, is this a man with an agenda or just a bruised ego give him his ball and let him stay at home we have had enough people crying wolf what we want is the truth warts and all and see who has strongest stomach to accept it no favours granted.
Mal in belfast wrote (232 days ago):
this coming from a man who lives in a country where you can walk into a shop and buy a firearm, where more people get shot in a year than in the whole off our so called troubles including school children, the land of the free or should it be renamed the land of the feel free to shoot who you want to shoot Mr Haas our country does not need you does not your opinions and last but not least does not want anyone from the good old u s of a the country that for many many years through their funding for terrorism kept the conflict in our country going resulting in many many lives lost so stay in your own country and let us get on with trying to sort our own problems out
Jack in Co antrim wrote (232 days ago):
How is an American going to understand, never mind solve what we have and are going through here? answer, he doesn't and can't. He doesn't know how to solve our problems any more than Martin McGuiness knows how to solve racial issues in the southern u.s states. Nauseating political back scratching and pandering to the u.s
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