First Reactions on Haass Proposals to Deal with Issues of the Past, Parades and Flags in Northern Ireland

Dr. Richard Haass

A draft proposal, compiled by US diplomat Dr. Richard Haass and the vice-chair of the talks, Harvard professor Meghan O’Sullivan, with various ideas on how to tackle the issues of the past, parades and flags in Northern Ireland was presented on Monday, December 16, 2013, to the five main Northern parties in Belfast. The Irish Times presents the draft document's main suggestions:

An all-embracing body that would deal with Troubles-relating killings is one of the main suggestions. […] Other ideas in the paper include a new flag for Northern Ireland that would be acceptable to both communities and the potential for limited immunity in return for truth telling by those who committed Troubles-related killings and other crimes, sources said today.

One of the main proposals that Dr. Haass has presented in his document is the creation of a central organization to deal with Troubles killings. Currently such investigations fall within the remit of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman. […]

A body to replace the current Parades Commission is also proposed, sources said, notwithstanding that the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers on Friday appointed a new Parades Commission to serve a three-year term. […] Discussions over parades and the past have been difficult although it has been clear that there is room to make progress in these two areas. Flags however have been proving particularly resistant to compromise. […]

The DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionist Party and Alliance were today invited to the Stormont Hotel in east Belfast to be given sight of proposals on the way forward.

The parties were not allowed to take away copies of the paper. And in an effort to maintain confidentiality participants to the talks were also banned from taking into the viewing rooms mobile phones, tablets or other electronic devices that could be used to copy the document.

[…] Dr. Haass is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with the five parties on Tuesday to hear and assess their responses, as he and Dr. O’Sullivan attempt to strike a Christmas deal on what are longstanding and intractable problems in Northern Ireland.

Intensive round table talks involving the five parties and chaired by Dr. Haass and Dr. O’Sullivan are expected to be held on Wednesday. Talks sources said they expected there will be significant changes to the Haass paper in the coming days.

To read the whole article on The Irish Times, please click here.

Some of Northern Ireland's parties have been giving their initial impression of the draft document. DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt gave their first responses after reading the document.

“The proposals at this state are a mixture of things that we would very much want to say and other elements of the document that we will have significant problems with. What we will do is consider the document in the round and determine our course of action over the next few days. … on the basis of what we have seen so far, there are good bits and there are bits we would not be happy with”, PN member Jeffrey Donaldson said.

To watch the responses on BBC News Northern Ireland, please click here.


Photo by aspeninstitute_internal.

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