Haass 'unlikely' to return to NI

Haass 'unlikely' to return to NI

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has said it is "unlikely" that Richard Haass will return to Northern Ireland to pick up his negotiations, after they ended without agreement at the end of the year.

Ms Villiers was updating the House of Commons on the Haass process which was tasked with finding agreement between the main parties on the issues of parading, the past and flags.Former US diplomat Dr Haass, along with his co-chair and international affairs expert Professor Meghan O'Sullivan, held marathon rounds of talks and produced seven drafts of proposals.However, despite their efforts, a common ground could not be reached.Speaking in the Commons, Ms Villiers said it was unlikely the US diplomat would return to pick up where he left off.She added that his work commitments would make it difficult for him to return."I hope he will continue to take an interest in the process," she said.According to Ms Villiers, the First and deputy First Ministers had the option to appoint a new independent chair if necessary."If there is a determination to bring about an agreement, we will ensure that happens," she said.Ms Villiers also insisted the coalition remained "strongly engaged" in the peace process and to the people of Northern Ireland after suggestions from a Labour MP that the government was not fully committed to the country.Defending the role that the UK has played in Northern Ireland, she said: "I wholly refute the perception of disengagement by the UK Government."We brought the G8 to Northern Ireland - one of the most successful events ever in Northern Ireland."We followed this up with a strong investment conference, we signed an economic pact, which sees us working more closely than ever with the devolved government, including the commitment to meet the £18bn of capital spending and we are determined to press ahead with supporting the Executive in its moves on a shared future."On Wednesday afternoon, a statement was released on behalf of the Loyal Orders following a meeting with Unionist representatives.It said that the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, the Royal Black Institution, the Apprentice Boys of Derry and the Independent Loyal Orange Institution welcomed the latest consultation with Unionist representatives involved in the Haass talks, and commend them for their ongoing efforts on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland."While it is clear resolution regarding the three outstanding issues is proving difficult; that should not diminish the responsibility on all in society to find lasting solutions to these complex issues."For our part, the Loyal Orders remain committed to playing a positive role in the process going forward and pray for genuine cultural accommodation in keeping with a shared future," the statement read."We collectively offer our continued support to our elected representatives and wish them well in their political endeavours in the days ahead."Church leaders also issued a statement encouraging politicians to sustain the momentum and energy generated by the Haass talks.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)In a joint statement from the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, and the Irish Council of Churches, said that they applaud the "strenuous and sincere efforts put in by all involved in seeking to find solutions to some of the most contentious issues we face."CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)Recognising the "profoundly challenging" nature of the issues to be addressed, the church leaders said that they firmly believed "a peaceful and reconciled society is possible." CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)They also also made it clear that the responsibility does not only lie with political leaders but is shared by every individual."As Christians we emphasise the value of building trust, in a spirit of generosity and forgiveness. We encourage every member of our community, church and parishes to be instruments of reconciliation and peace-building," the statement read.First Minister Peter Robinson has described the statements from the Loyal Orders and the church leaders as an encouragement "to those who genuinely want to work to find solutions to some of the most contentious issues we face as a society.""They represent a clear desire on the part of most within our society to build on the progress that has been achieved to date while recognising that more work is required to secure agreement in areas of remaining dispute," the DUP leader said.Mr Robinson added that he looked forward to meeting with party leaders next week "to discuss the way forward, mindful that more work remains if we are to achieve an agreement that can gain widespread community support."


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