Sinn Féin motion on Haass is rejected

Published Monday, 13 January 2014
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A Sinn Féin motion accepting the proposals put forward by Dr Richard Haass has been defeated following a vote in the Assembly.

Sinn Féin motion on Haass is rejected
Peter Robinson has been addressing the Assembly. (© UTV)

Politicians rejected the motion by 52 votes to 49 on Monday evening. Amendments tabled by the DUP, UUP and Alliance also failed.

The leaders of the Stormont parties will meet on Tuesday for further discussions.

Sinn Féin's motion had called on the Executive to begin putting in place the foundations for implementation of the Haass proposals on flags, parades and dealing with the past.

The former US diplomat was brought in to chair all-party discussions on these contentious issues, alongside co-chair Meghan O'Sullivan, however after seven drafts and marathon negotiations there was no agreement before the end-of-2013 deadline.

During Monday's debate, north Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the issues are not going away.

"Unless we act, these issues will continue to affect in the most negative of ways any progress that we are trying to make on having a shared and better future," said the Sinn Féin man.

"The three issues of parades, flags and emblems, and the past are not going away.

"If we do not set a structure and process in place to deal with them now, they will continue to afflict us all for many years to come."

The DUP had put forward an amendment welcoming the decision of the party leaders to meet on 14 January to consider the next steps.

Arlene Foster said: "Work has been carried out and there has been good and meaningful progress in relation to matters but there is still much work to do. I am very pleased that a meeting has been called for tomorrow to try to bring that about."

Tom Elliott of the UUP, who tabled an amendment which called for the First and deputy First Ministers to "agree proposals for a practical and a positive way forward" on the issues, said the Haass document is a contribution but not a solution to the problems.

He added: "I am assuming that a lot of people in the wider community, and indeed the press, are maybe getting just a little fed up with hearing about all the aspects around Haass."

Alliance put forward an amendment calling for the proposals on the past to be implemented and a new mechanism to deal with outstanding difficulties on flags and parades.

Chris Lyttle MLA said: "Progress on the core issues of sovereignty, identity, cultural expression and the past is urgent and vital to deliver the social and economic stability and the shared society that we need to be able to get on with achieving those aims."

The SDLP leader, Alasdair McDonnell, said the past was the area where there was the greatest progress during the Haass talks.

He said: "The architecture outlined in the document focuses rightly on the key principles of rights along with responsibilities and, crucially, relationships that need to be sorted. In my opinion and that of the SDLP, progress there can be consolidated."

Last week, speaking from New York, Dr Haass told UTV his involvement in NI was at an end and that he was "frustrated" that an agreement could not be reached.

Earlier on Monday, during the Assembly's first opportunity to discuss the Haass process, First Minister Peter Robinson appeared to rule out asking the diplomat to return.

He told MLAs: "There are rules against inhumane treatment."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Martin in Carrick wrote (380 days ago):
democracy is democracy, like it or not the people of Northern Ireland voted these politicians in, and I use the word politicians lightly. if you don't like what they are doing vote them out, and there is no point blaming Haass he was asked to come here by our so called leaders. And I bet he was glad to leave.
Michael in Belfast wrote (381 days ago):
@reality smacks in Belfast so what part of attempted murder of PSNI officers, street violence, £millions in policing costs etc is Unionists accepting the designated days flag flying in City Hall you idiot.
desdodes in lower ormo wrote (381 days ago):
Mark in rathcoole, you're a muppet. It was unionist objection too home rule that started this mess of a statelet. And big alan, ask wullie & jamie what was in them, after all they were informed. Where'nt they?
Realist in Belfast wrote (381 days ago):
@Danny in Poleglass. Excellent point, well made.
Reality smacks in Belfast wrote (381 days ago):
This is democracy all you folks who are complaining! When the same democracy was applied to the Union flag, Unionists were told to accept it, however unpalatable. This is the same democracy; live with it.
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