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McGuinness claims 'extreme loyalism' is setting the unionist agenda on Haass proposals

The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland made the comments as the Haass-O’Sullivan team published a summary of the proposed deal.
Jan 6th 2014, 4:55 PM 10,133 153

DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER Of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness has said that “extreme loyalism” is setting the agenda of unionist parties in Northern Ireland as they consider Haass proposals.

McGuinness made the comments as the UUP is set to meet tonight to consider the draft agreement with party leader Mike Nesbitt not yet giving a formal position on whether he backs the draft deal.

McGuinness said that he is concened that the Orange Order is having too much influence in the decision making process of unionist parties:

It is clear that there are elements of the Orange Order and extreme loyalism who do not want to see progress, they do not want to see agreement and they are hostile to the idea of peace building and a shared future. Adopting a negotiating strategy which is driven by these negative elements is a huge mistake.

The Sinn Féin leadership is recommending to its grassroots to accept the Richard Haass draft deal while the SDLP and the Alliance Party are also endorsing the proposals.

The DUP and the UUP have not yet said whether they would recommend the acceptance of the draft but the DUP said following the negotiations that they could not back it in its current form.

McGuinness said that Haass had “delivered his final text”  and issued a call to unionists to “stand with the vast majority who want to see progress, not with the rejectionist elements within the Orange Order who wish to see this process fail”.

“In recent days I have heard talk about the establishment of a working group on the Haass proposals. The negotiation has ended. The only purpose in establishing an all-party working group is to ensure the implementation of the document as it stands not to reopen negotiations on its contents,” he added.

Fact sheet

McGuinness’s comments came as Haass and vice-chair Meghan O’Sullivan released a two-page fact sheet to provide the public with information on the draft agreement that was completed on New Year’s Eve.

Both the fact sheet and the draft document itself have now been published online and contain details about some of the differences of opinion that existed on the negotiating table.

The fact sheet explains that the issue of flags and emblems was the most divisive issue. Haass and O’Sullivan say that this was in large part because these issues run deeper than the team had the authority to discuss.

“Views on this issue were closely tied to larger debates about sovereignty, identity, and related matters that were beyond the remit of these talks,” they said.

One issue that did achieve more consensus, however, was the issue of contending with Northern Ireland’s legacy of violence with the team claiming that the draft agreement “makes substantial progress in addressing the past”.

The agreement did not provide an amnesty for those who came forward with information on the conflict but it did “provide those coming forward with limited immunity, also known as inadmissibility, for statements”.

This would be done through an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) to enable victims and survivors to seek and privately receive information about conflict-related events.

There was also a call for the replacement of the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team with a new a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) with the full investigative powers of the PSNI.

Read: SF tells Unionists to make up their mind about Haass proposals >

Read: Haass talks in Belfast end without agreement >

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Rónán Duffy

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