Disappointment as Northern Irish deal eludes parties
“This process is not dead, but it is far from finished,” says American diplomat chairing talks
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Tuesday 31 December 2013
Northern Ireland will enter 2014 picking up the pieces of yet another unsuccessful political initiative aimed at clearing up the unresolved issues left in the wake of the Troubles.
The sense of disappointment was palpable in Belfast today after marathon overnight talks chaired by former US diplomat Richard Haass failed to find agreement on any of three topics he was asked to tackle.
Despite the air of anti-climax, the five major Belfast parties will have little option but to return to the negotiating table at some stage to address the issues of marching, flag-flying and the past which bedevil the peace process.
It is not immediately clear when a new effort can be launched. Much groundwork will be likely be needed first on establishing what the outstanding issues are, and whether they could be best addressed by a renewed Haass involvement or by some other format.
Dr Haass and others insisted that the weeks of intensive discussions and draft documents had been valuable in clarifying many points and identifying areas of common ground. “This process is not dead, but it is far from finished,” he said. “All the parties support significant parts of it. At the same time, all have some concerns.”
None of seven draft documents produced by Dr Haass have been released, and yesterday he called for their publication in the apparent belief that they would be generally seen as a reasonable basis for compromise.
Dr Haass said that while progress had been made on all three topics, flags and symbols had proved to be “the toughest area of negotiations.”
He said he truly believed his blueprint provided a foundation for reconciliation.
Prime Minister David Cameron also stressed the positives, declaring: “Although it is disappointing the parties have not been able to reach full agreement at this stage, these talks have achieved much common ground, providing a basis for continuing discussions.”
Similar sentiments were voiced by Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, who said he hoped the talks could provide a platform for renewed efforts to achieve accord.
One unusual feature of the initiative’s conclusion is that - so far at any rate - both unionist and nationalist representatives have refrained from blaming each other.
Jeffrey Donaldson of the Democratic Unionist party said the broad architecture of the agreement was acceptable but that “some of the language and detail is not what we would have chosen”.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said what had been suggested was “not perfect” but added he believed there was “a basis for a deal in the proposals”.
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...
£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...