Not only did the executive parties fail to reach agreement during the Haass talks, “the document which their discussions produced was also a failure”, according to NI Conservatives’ co-chair Trevor Ringland.
“There’s a danger of becoming too caught up with the issue of whether people signed up to an agreement, as opposed to whether they were potentially agreeing to something worthwhile in the first place”, Trevor argued. “As far as the Haass proposals are concerned, there are flaws in the work that the parties completed and there’s no point in pushing a fudged document, just to give the appearance of progress.”
“For a start the issue of flags was effectively pushed to one side during this process. That’s an abject failure, because the answer is glaringly obvious: fly the Union Flag on designated days, right across Northern Ireland, in order to reflect accurately the constitutional position. Any arrangement on flags which does not have that at its heart, does not respect the principle of consent. The Haass document should have reflected that and the SDLP need to make it clear whether they accept designated days in theory. The issue of a flag for our new Northern Ireland should also be looked at.”
“When it comes to parades, it’s clear that the unionist parties have decided that the Parades Commission is not such a bad solution. After years of demonising the body, they should be honest about that, because they obviously feel that the alternatives are worse. There is certainly a need for a tighter code of conduct, to ensure good behaviour at parades, for the benefit of everyone involved and that could be built into any agreement, supported by the politicians.”
“By rights, the past should be the hardest issue to deal with it, but we’re told that it is where most progress was made. It’s important that all parties are genuinely signed up to a balanced process where the truth will be uncovered and justice delivered where possible, whatever the consequences. That might mean particular discomfort for some current politicians or their associates and a recognition that their actions were wrong. The important thing is that any process which deals with the past is about building a better future for Northern Ireland. Let’s focus on the issues and the parties continued failure to deal with them, rather than who is prepared to sign a particular piece of paper.”