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McGuinness: Unionists have been "dancing to the tune of extremists"

The leaders of the five main Northern Ireland parties held talks yesterday to discuss the fallout from Haass, and have agreed to a further meeting next week.

Image: Will Oliver/PA Wire/Press Association Images

NORTHERN IRELAND DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has accused unionist leaders of allowing extremist factions from within their own community set their agenda over the last 18 months.

He was speaking amid fresh efforts to progress talks on flags, parades and the past, following the failure of negotiations chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass.

The leaders of the five main political parties held talks on the fallout from the Haass discussions at Stomont yesterday, according to UTV News, and have agreed to sit down for a further meeting next Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, McGuinness said he had watched unionist parties “dancing to the tune of extremists within their own communities” for the last year-and-a-half and that “that has to end”.

“I say that because I believe the influence of these people has impacted on the Haass negotiations and the Haass outcome.

“This is a time for leadership, this is a time for standing up to extremists who are trying to bring this process down.”

He said he still believed the Haass proposals were the best way to deal with the outstanding issues of the peace process and that he would do “everything in his power” to move things forward.

According to the BBC, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell described yesterday’s discussions as positive, but said it was now time for implementation rather that negotiation.

The negotiations chaired by Richard Haass and Harvard professor Meghan O’Sullivan broke down without agreement on New Year’s Eve, following a series of marathon talks sessions over the Christmas period.

Read: Haass talks in Belfast end without agreement

Read: ‘Today is the last day in Belfast. Hope leaders seize it’ – Haass urges progress as deadline looms >

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