Gilmore stresses importance of Haass talks to flags, parades issues

Minister backs new process as a ‘smart move’ but warns envoy cannot ‘work miracles on his own’

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore speak to the media at Iveagh House in Dublin.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore speak to the media at Iveagh House in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 15:47

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore will meet the chairman of the independent talks in the North which aim to find accommodation on flags, parades and legacy issues arising from the Troubles.

Mr Gilmore has already spoken by phone to Dr Richard Haass, who held more than 30 meetings in Belfast last week as part of his engagement with the main Stormont parties and representatives from civic society. Mr Gilmore said he and Dr Haass will meet again when Mr Gilmore attends the UN general assembly.

Standing alongside Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers after more than an hour of talks at Iveagh House in Dublin, Mr Gilmore said both governments were determined to ensure “that what has been achieved in Northern Ireland is maintained and built-upon”.

Both governments remain committed to a bi-partisan approach to the North and to work with the Stormont Executive to “improve the situation in Northern Ireland” while “addressing some of the issues that have arisen over the summer”.

Mr Gilmore stressed the importance of inclusion of a wide range of voices from beyond the political parties in the Haass talks process, especially those in “front line areas”.

“They are very keen to part of this and I know from my discussion with Richard Haass that he is keen that they will be involved.”

Mr Gilmore added that it was important that he gives Dr Haass “the perspective of the two governments”.

He denied the start of the Haass talks process signalled severe difficulties within the Stormont Executive, calling the approach to Dr Haass as a “wise move” but warned that he could not “work miracles on his own”. Dr Haass deserved the full support of the Assembly parties as well as civic society, he added.

Ms Villiers also praised the involvement of the former US special envoy to the peace process as a “smart move”. While she acknowledged current problems but also pointed to “extremely good days” especially the successful staging of the “most peaceful G8 summit”.

She defended the British government decision not to call a full inquiry into the Omagh bombing in spite of calls by some of the victims’ families and by Amnesty International.

Such an inquiry “would not be justified” given the extent of investigations already held and those which are still ongoing, she said.

Mr Gilmore said Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was still considering Omagh.