Posted By: January 01, 2014

Allison Morris. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, January 1, 2014
On and on and on the Haass talks went, journalists lumbered with reporting on the
worst gig since the birth of the royal baby in live broadcasts from the Stormont
Hotel, trying to sound interested while a whole lot of nothing was happening inside.

As enthusiastic as they were, nothing could disguise the ridiculous pettiness going
on in a room full of people arguing over issues that could have been solved a decade
ago if only someone had grown a set.

Earlier this week I had a post-festive catch up with a bunch of reporters, and what
was obvious was that despite all having been out and about over the holidays, not
one of us was asked about the Haass talks.

That tells you either the good people of the North don't care about their future -
which I refuse to believe - or they hadn't been fooled into believing that these
talks were ever going to amount to a hill of beans.

They were concocted as a face-saving exercise after the worst year's political
leadership imaginable. Not even the clumsy attempt at positive spin will fool the
public who can see once again just how badly they have been let down.

The assembly was already failing in terms of passing legislation. Now when faced
with coming up with even a basic agreement on a way forward they've failed
miserably. What's even more ridiculous is that those participating claim they were
almost there on the two most serious issues, parades and the past, but not on flags.
The one issue that doesn't impact one single iota on the life and livelihood of
people in the north.

If with hindsight unionists still can't see they were led a merry dance by loyalist
paramilitaries on the flag issue then we really are doomed.

The hangover from that particular fiasco can be seen in Belfast Magistrates Court
any day of the week.

Hundreds of loyalists, many of them young men who were already short on opportunity,
have been saddled with a criminal record while those who encouraged them onto the
streets watch on unscathed. Safely protected by a system that grants funding and
jobs to the chosen few who kept people blocking roads and breaking laws, while they
watched from the sidelines counting how many more years they could get out of
pretending they were working to fix a problem when the truth is they helped create