Unionists angered at White House committee’s ‘one-sided’ briefing

Posted By: March 13, 2014

Dr Richard Haass
Dr Richard Haass

NEWS LETTER ( Belfast).13March 2014 

Unionists have urged an influential Congressional committee in Washington to hear their side of the story following the failure of the Haass talks on political progress.

Earlier this week, politicians on Capitol Hill heard briefings from those affected by loyalist and state violence, Amnesty International and the former police ombudsman for Northern Ireland Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds has written to the Foreign Affairs subcommittee involved, which also heard evidence from Dr Haass in person, to express her disappointment and to offer her party’s perspective on the outstanding issues.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Dodds said: “Politicians on Capitol Hill have long taken an interest in Northern Ireland.

“It is therefore very disappointing that yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) briefing has the appearance of being one-sided.”

According to the committee’s website, among those giving evidence were Geraldine Finucane, wife of murdered solicitor Patrick Finucane, and Eugene Devlin, a victim of the Military Reaction Force.

Mrs Dodds added: “It is important that the committee understands the intransigence and narrow-mindedness shown towards some of our parading organisations. “As a victim of PIRA terrorism, it would also be useful for the committee to hear my party’s views on dealing with the past.”

At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Dr Haass expressed concern over a potential return to serious violence if issues from the past are not dealt with, and insisted a recent Stormont controversy over on the run republicans was not an excuse for political leaders to walk away from continuing efforts to make progress.

Commenting on the evidence given to the committee by the former US diplomat, UUP MLA Tom Elliott said his party would “not be steamrollered into accepting a bad deal”.

He said: “We reject Dr Haass’s comments that lack of political progress will lead to violence. What does he 
base that on?

“The fact is, there is ongoing violence and criminality at this time and the PSNI are doing their best to contain it.

“We won’t be intimidated by the threat of violence and instead we will concentrate on doing what’s right for Northern Ireland.”

TUV leader Jim Allister called Dr Haass an “excuser of terrorism” and said his “outburst in Washington was wholly irresponsible”.

Mr Allister said: “Richard Haass would do well to reflect on the fact that innocent victims of terrorism have been among the most vocal critics of his proposals.

“However, I have little hope of him doing so as they were effectively excluded from his sham of a consultation, with many key victims organisations never meeting him at all while others had to make do with meeting Dr O’Sullivan after the consultation had officially ended.”

NI Conservatives’ co-chair Trevor Ringland has said Dr Haass should “stop championing a dead document”.

He added: “The Haass ‘blueprint’ failed to make any real progress on flags; its suggestions on parades were worse than the existing arrangements; and the work on the past has since been thrown into disarray by arguments about on the runs.”