Haass document needs clear response says Gerry Adams

Posted By: January 03, 2014

BBC.NI.Thursday, January 2, 2014

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Gerry Adams said there was an opportunity to resolve outstanding issues

Stormont’s parties must be clear in their response to proposals about contentious issues, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said.

Months of negotiations about parades, flags and the legacy of the Troubles ended with no deal on proposals drawn up by US diplomat Richard Haass.

Sinn Féin’s talks team will recommend that its party executive endorses the document when it meets on 11 January.

Mr Adams said the other parties “should not fudge their response”.

He said the British and Irish governments and the parties must “grasp the opportunity that now exists to resolve outstanding issues”.

Give and take’

“Sinn Féin would like to have seen some aspects of the proposed agreement strengthened and improved further,” he said.

“More work is required on parity of esteem, equality and respect for all cultures and identities. However agreement on everything was not possible.

“Negotiation is about give and take; it’s about making concessions and accepting that there can be no outright winners.”

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DUP leader Peter Robinson said the momentum from the talks should not be lost

On Thursday night, the the SDLP formally endorsed the Haass proposals.

Party leader Alasdair McDonnell said he was optimistic the stumbling blocks could be overcome.

He said he was writing to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister “demanding” that they set about establishing a “five-party group that will work on the issues that were raised there, that will work on completing the work that was done”.

He added: “We believe there is much to be gained… but there is still a bit of work to be done.

“Richard Haass certainly created the space for us to get the resolution of those outstanding issues.”

The Ulster Unionist Party’s ruling executive is to be briefed by its talks team on Monday.

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The SDLP endorsed the Haass proposals at a meeting on Thursday night

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the party would “reach a decision on the way forward” at that stage.

“However, this was an initiative from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, and it falls to them to outline how they see this process moving forward,” he added.

Mr Nesbitt said the “major problem with getting the process back on track is that the Alliance Party cherry-picked the final document, something entirely against the spirit of what Dr Haass requested”.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said on Wednesday that the momentum from the Haass talks should not be lost and he would support Dr Haass’s suggestion that a cross-party working group should be created to assess how to move things forward.

Dr Haass, who was brought to Northern Ireland with co-chair Prof Meghan O’Sullivan in July by the first and deputy first ministers, said that while a final agreement had not been reached by the New Year’s Eve deadline, “significant progress” had been made and there was a “basis” for change.