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Haass talks with NI parties fail to reach consensus, but Gilmore says agreement is essential

After eight hours of discussions, the all-party talks on some of Northern Ireland’s most sensitive issues broke down.

Richard Hass when he met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier this year.
Richard Hass when he met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier this year.
Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 13.13pm

CROSS-PARTY TALKS by former US diplomat Richard Haass and Northern Ireland’s politicians aimed at reaching a compromise on  issues relating to flags, parades and the past have failed to reach an agreement.

Talks began after 9pm and  continued into the early hours of this morning. However after eight hours of discussions he announced that no agreement could be brokered.

In a tweet he said:

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All five of the North’s major parties took part in the talks in a hope to resolve some of the more sensitive and contentious issues in the Northern Ireland.

Dr Haass will return to the US today, but he may return if there is an appetite to move the talks further.

The Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he had spoken to Dr Haass this morning and thanked him and Vice-Chair Dr Meghan O’Sullivan for their “guidance of the process to date, and their willingness to return to Northern Ireland later this week if they judge that there may be the basis for agreement”.

In reaction to the talks breakdown, First Minister Martin McGuinness  tweeted:

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Earlier, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC that Haass had indicated that if agreement could not be reached before Christmas, the discussions would recommence on 27 or 28 December.

Gilmore said:

At this point I would ask the five parties of the NI Executive to see through the very important work they have engaged in over recent months on the difficult issues of parades, flags and dealing with the past.

The next few days are an important opportunity for reflection following an intensive period for all concerned.

He added that the Irish Government stands “ready to support the process in any way possible”.

Gilmore added: “Our objective, which I know we share with all of the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive and with the British Government, is to see Northern Ireland make further progress towards reconciliation”.

Alex Atwood

Commenting after the talks breakdown, Alex Atwood the MLA representative for Belfast West in the Northern Ireland Assembly said while they haven’t got a Christmas Eve deal, a New Year’s Eve deal can still be achieved.

When asked if Haass would be returning to the talks after Christmas he said that it would be “well worth his while to come back” so as to achieve “what we have not achieved here tonight”.

He urged all parties to “grasp” the opportunity so as to deliver “what the people want”. It is believed that Dr Haass will forward a list of questions to the parties and depending on their response, he will decide whether he should return to reconvene the talks.

Atwood added that the most difficult part of the talks is “dealing with the past” adding that it can be difficult to deal with the “fears and hopes of victims and survivors” but urged the parties not to lost focus on what they are trying to achieve.

Gilmore said that an agreement on these issues “is essential” to reaching the objective of reconciliation.

Related: Haass talks with NI parties expected to last well into night>

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