Parties and Haass in round-table talks

Published Monday, 23 December 2013
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The five Executive parties are meeting for round-table discussions with Dr Richard Haass after reading the fourth draft of his proposals aimed at resolving some of Northern Ireland's most contentious issues.

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The session got underway just after 9pm on Monday after twice being pushed back from 11am and 6pm, with negotiations now looking set to continue well into the night.

As he arrived at the Stormont Hotel in east Belfast to begin the talks, chairman Dr Haass told reporters: "It's going to be an interesting evening".

The latest version of US diplomat's blueprint on flags, parades and dealing with the past was sent to the parties earlier. The part on the past was distributed first, followed by the rest.

It is understood a deal on flags is set to prove elusive - however progress has been made on the issues of parades and how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

UTV correspondent Tracey Magee said: "It appears Dr Haass has largely packed up the flags issue due to a lack of agreement.

"It is thought he has recommended a commission should look at the matter at a later date."

Meetings had been scheduled for Monday morning but it is understood the timetable was pushed back significantly, amid ongoing efforts to strike a deal before Christmas.

Dr Haass is hoping to reach an accommodation within that timeframe, but has said that if it doesn't happen he and co-chair Dr Meghan O'Sullivan will make a judgement call on whether it would be worth flying back to Northern Ireland on 27 December for another round of talks.

Speaking over the weekend, the former US Envoy said "no stone has been left unturned".

Earlier the parties held separate meetings as they awaited Dr Haass' fourth draft, with UUP leader Mike Nesbitt stressing that the approach must be realistic.

He said: "We are being realistic in accepting that we can't get an agreement on flags in the time frame. That is not to say that is a great outcome - it is acceptance of where we are."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Féin, tweeted that he would love to go home for Christmas but is "determined to do so with agreement".

Meanwhile the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said he thinks a resolution is still possible.

The Lagan Valley MP said: "Well it is going to be difficult to do it today but if the fourth draft document comes out and people are satisfied then yes it is possible."

© UTV News
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59 Comments
Big Joe in Eire32 wrote (115 days ago):
I would have thought the parades issue and flags issue would have been the easiet to solve. For parades let the OO march wherever they want with no flags, no bands and no followers making their parades less intimidating to catholics and less triumphalist. For flags again simples fly both juristiction flags represnting both communities north and south if this even means flying the union jack in the south. Both flags tricolour and union jacks or no flags that way no one section of the community is being detrimented!
pip in belfast wrote (117 days ago):
johnny go back to school son how can a country be under occupation when not a single soldier walks the streets ? the island is called ireland the two seperate countrys are northern ireland and the republic of ireland its like saying just call every country on tne continent EUROPE just because they share land mass !!
Paul Campbell in Newtownabbey wrote (118 days ago):
Loyalists seem to have no problem flying the tricolour on the top of bonfires
jackie in belfast wrote (118 days ago):
@Johnny in Belfast you can`t even bring yourself to say the word Northern Ireland, but I think you will find it is not under OCCUPATION, the vast majority want to be British! When Britain withdraws? Do you mean that everyone in Northern Ireland who deem themselves as British go away ? Yep sounds like the shared future you talk about so often !
realistic in planet earth wrote (118 days ago):
@Steven in Antrim.... do you actually believe what you have written?..........lmao
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