Dr McAreavey: Haass a missed opportunity

Posted By: January 13, 2014

Irish News ( Belfast). Monday, January 13, 2014

A SENIOR Catholic cleric has described the failure to reach compromise at the Haass
talks as a missed opportunity.
Bishop of Down and Dromore John McAreavey urged parties to sustain the momentum
generated in recent weeks to strike a deal.
Efforts to agree on a final draft of proposals - presented by US diplomat Richard
Haass, below, and his vice chairwoman Meghan O'Sullivan - broke down on New Year's
Eve without agreement.
His comments came as Sinn Fein called on the British and Irish governments to
implement the proposals dealing with flags, parades and the past.
The proposals are due to be debated at the assembly today.
Spokesman for the four main churches Dr M c A r e a v e y encouraged politicians to
continue to work to find an agreement.
"In a divided society, you don't ever get your own vision translated perfectly into
action," he told the BBC.
"If we were ultimately to fail in this process to reach consensus, I think it would
be very serious for us and for our whole society, for our young people and for
everyone who's trying to work for a better society."
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said he would tell today's all-party assembly meeting
that the past must be dealt with "comprehensively and ethically".
"The next steps are the responsibility of both the five party leaders and the Irish
and British governments. Any attempts at renegotiation will stall progress.
Our purpose must be the implementation of the proposals."
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the only way to get a solution was through
"cross-party agreement".
"In many senses that was the whole point of devolution, so that decisions on crucial
issues like this could be made by the people elected by the people of Northern
On Saturday, Sinn Fein's ard chomhairle formally accepted the Haass proposals after
a party meeting in Dublin with party leader Gerry Adams describing them as "a
compromise position".
He said his party "would like to have seen some aspects of the document strengthened
and improved further" but he added that agreement on everything - particularly flags
- was not possible.
DUP leader Peter Robinson said on Friday that the Haass plan was unbalanced and
required further work.
While Sinn Fein and the SDLP have endorsed the proposals the DUP, UUP and Alliance
have, so far, rejected elements of the Haass plans.