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Richard Haass says some in Northern Ireland are being 'unrealistic in the extreme'

The talks chair said that he hoped the parties would continue to work to achieve agreement.

Megan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass with talk to the media at the Stormont hotel in Belfast. (File)
Megan O'Sullivan and Dr Richard Haass with talk to the media at the Stormont hotel in Belfast. (File)
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

THE TEAM CHAIRING the recent talks in Northern Ireland have said that it is “unrealistic in the extreme” for people to believe that every element of the agreement can be to their liking.

Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan realised a joint statement this evening saying that in politics parties must “accept some elements it views as disagreeable”:

Our experience in Northern Ireland suggests that those who believe they can ensure that each and every element of the agreement is to their liking – and still secure five party consensus – are being unrealistic in the extreme.

“Politics inevitably requires that each party accept some elements it views as disagreeable in order to advance the greater good; indeed, it is only through compromise that the political parties will be able to collectively deliver the better future that the people of Northern Ireland demand and deserve,” they say.

The statement expressed “disappointment” that all five parties did not endorse the final 31 December agreement but Haass and O’Sullivan welcomed that some parties had done so.

They accepted that the final document was not perfect but said that if the document was supported by the parties there would be scope for minor changes during its implementation.

“Unquestionably, there are details that need further refinement, but these details should be honed in the necessary legislation and during implementation,” they explain.

On Monday evening the UPP unequivocally rejected the final Haass proposals, echoing the DUP who also indicated that they could not support the final draft.

The statement by the negotiating team offered little to suggest that they would be willing to return to chair more talks, merely offering support to the establishment of a working group to continue talks.

“The agreement that resulted, if implemented, would make real progress toward contending with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.”

NI Secretary of State

The UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers also hinted that the work of Haass and Sullivan may be completed in Northern Ireland.

She told the House of Commons today that she hoped that the Northern parties,as well as the Irish and British Government’s, could work together to “build on the valuable work which they’ve done”.

Villiers also said she was disappointed that a comprehensive agreement could not be reached, noting that “it is clear that some of the parties have genuine concerns about aspects of what is in the final document”.

Church leaders unite

Also today, leaders from four Religious orders in Northern Ireland united to ask politicians in the North to “sustain the momentum and energy generated by the Haass talks”.

A joint statement from the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, together with the Irish Council of Churches accepted the “profoundly challenging” nature of the issues to be addressed but said that there is a responsibility on politicians and individuals to keep working:

We firmly believe that a peaceful and reconciled society is possible. Responsibility for building peace and the development of mutual respect and tolerance in our society does not lie with our political leaders alone, but is shared by every individual…We encourage every member of our community, church and parishes to be instruments of reconciliation and peace-building.

Read: McGuinness claims ‘extreme loyalism’ is setting the unionist agenda on Haass proposals >

Column: Failure of Haass talks highlights two serious problems in modern Northern Ireland >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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