Gilmore confident about Haass talks
Tánaiste pays tribute to work of community leaders
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: said he was “more hopeful than before” that the peace process could be “put back on track” after a troubled summer
The upcoming Haass talks on the Northern Ireland peace process must “engage with people on the ground” and not just be a “talking shop for politicians”, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.
Speaking in Belfast yesterday after a day of meetings with community representatives and the business sector, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said he was “more hopeful than before” that the peace process could be “put back on track” after a troubled summer.
“I definitely have a strong sense of the pressure some communities are under, especially around interface areas. There is a considerable degree of tension. There has also been a lot of damage to business, both directly in terms of protests and riots but also indirectly in terms of reputation, which has a knock-on effect on investment and employment.
“But I also feel greatly encouraged by the work that is being done: there is a great tribute to be paid to the community leaders who have helped keep a lid on things. Their input is essential, and I think it’s very important that they are a key part of any solution.”
Mr Gilmore was speaking at St Brigid’s GAA pitch in the south of the city after taking soundings from community leaders in the areas that have experienced the worst of recent tensions over march and flag protests – the nationalist enclaves of Short Strand, Ardoyne and Carrick Hill and loyalist east Belfast.
Catholic priest Fr Gary Donegan, residents’ spokesman Frank Dempsey, Methodist minister Rev Gary Mason, Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donghaille and policing board member Deborah Watters were among those who briefed Mr Gilmore.
Earlier the Labour leader visited Belfast City Hall to speak to Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin, who was recently attacked by loyalists while opening a new park in the city.
Former US special envoy Richard Haass is due in the North in two weeks to lead all-party talks.