Posted By: January 04, 2014

Newton Emerson. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, January 4, 2014.

According to Alliance leader David Ford, the Haass talks failed because unionists
would not sign up to a legally binding code of conduct for parades. Notable items in
Haass's code, which was based on current Parades commission 'guidance', include "a
rejection of marks or music referring to proscribed organisations past or present"
and "the avoidance of paramilitary-style clothing at all times".

This would cause obvious problems for the loyalist bands that trail orange order
marches. In the absence of any other credible explanation from either unionist
party, it appears that the DUP and the UUP are so prostrate before loyalists forces
in east and north Belfast that they sank the Haass talks rather than antagonise
bands like the conway Young defenders. Last-minute threats from leading flag
protesters about a new wave of 'band culture' protests may also have proved


The Haass talks were expected to succeed because they began with a set of ready-made
solutions, which Haass's final document restated almost wholesale. There seems to
have been great discomfort at how little progress this would have revealed, even if
it had worked. Hence there was no acknowledgement that Haass's proposals for
parading were virtually identical to the DUP-Sinn Fein 2010 draft bill on parades,
or that his proposals for dealing with the past were virtually identical to the 2009
Eames-Bradley report. Saddest of all was the subject of flags, which Haass kicked
into the long grass without any mention of the 2005 multi-agency joint protocol on
flags. That protocol died in 2011 when the PSNI apologised to "community
representatives and others" for provoking UVF riots by taking down a flag in
Ballyclare erected in breach of a local agreement. The ensuing resurgence of
loyalism led directly to the crisis that Haass was brought in to address.