HAASS TALKS FAIL TO REACH ALL PARTY AGREEMENT

Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass could not get the parties to agree on flags, the past and parades

Meghan O’Sullivan and Richard Haass could not get the parties to agree on flags, the past and parades

AFTER 21 marathon hours of discussion, the Haass talks have broken down without agreement this morning.

The five main Stormont Executive parties met through the night in a final push too reach accord over the past, parades and flags.

But the DUP, UUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance Party could not come to agreement on draft proposals drawn up by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass.

He said final agreement was “not there” but there had been “significant progress”.

However, he did call the negotiations a “basis” for change.

Dr Haass and his number two Meghan O’Sullivan will now return to America without getting a deal however, the pair may return at a future date.

Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister David Ford gave an ominous view of the final proposals.

“On the issues of parading and flags, we are in a much worse position,” he said.

Party colleague and east Belfast MP Naomi Long said her party could not endorse the proposals on flags and parades and the issue of dealing with the past “had gone beyond our expectations”.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who earlier yesterday said he was confident a deal could be done, said he would take the proposals away so his party executive could vote on them.

Following the breakdown at the Stormont Hotel in east Belfast this morning, Dr Haass said: “All the parties support significant parts of the agreement. At the same time, all have some concerns.

“We very much hope that the parties reflect on this, discuss it with their leadership and then come back with a strong endorsement. Over the next week we will know a lot more.”

He said progress had been made in all three of the negotiating areas, especially the past, while flags and symbols had proven to be the “toughest area of negotiations”.

Dr Haass said all five parties had “given it their best” and were “prepared to continue” with the process.

“It would have been nice to have come out here tonight and say we have got all five parties completely signed on to the text,” he said.

“We are not there but I believe there is a real prospect that we will get several of the parties to sign on the text in full.

“Several of the other parties will endorse significant parts of it, and together this will provide a basis for a serious ongoing political process.”

The overnight negotiations centred on a seventh set of draft proposals put forward during the talks.

After the talks, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams said his negotiating team believed there was a “basis for a deal in the proposals put forward” which would now be put to his party’s Ard Comhairle (party executive).

“It’s not perfect. I’m sure there will be a lot of disappointment out there as people come to terms with the fact that there doesn’t appear at this point to be an agreement,” he said.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said that while the “broad architecture” of the agreement was acceptable, “some of the language and detail is not what we would have chosen and in some cases we strongly disapprove of the language”.

“We entered into this process to get the right deal for the people of Northern Ireland, but not any deal,” he added.

A deadline for a deal had been set for Monday, December 30 but this was exceeded and talks ran until into the early hours of the morning.

 

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