Robinson calls for inclusive talks under Haass chairmanship

First Minister says next week’s all-party talks shouldn’t focus on ‘sectional interest’

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness: said next week’s talks were ‘a real and genuine effort’ by all parties to ‘try and crack these very difficult nuts’.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness: said next week’s talks were ‘a real and genuine effort’ by all parties to ‘try and crack these very difficult nuts’.

Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 22:52

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said next week’s all-party talks on the controversial issues of flags, parades and the past chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass shouldn’t just focus on a “sectional interest.”

Speaking after meeting the diplomat on an economic trip to New York, Mr Robinson said he, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Dr Haass believe that “as widespread a view-point across the community” should be heard during the talks and that there shouldn’t be “a silent majority”.

Mr McGuinness said next week’s talks were “a real and genuine effort” by all parties to “try and crack these very difficult nuts.” Dr Haass was willing to speak to all of the parties, he said.

“Richard Haass has made this clear from the very beginning, opening his doors to everybody who feels that they have stake in these important issues, so what is very, very important is that nobody out there feels that they haven’t had the opportunity to come along and have their say,” he said.

Mr McGuinness said much of the conflict and street violence seen over the summer in Northern Ireland was “orchestrated by a paramilitary organisation and supported by a so-called political party and, I believe, elements within the Orange Order.”

Asked about relations between them since the dispute over Mr Robinson’s decision to stall the Maze Peace Centre on the eve of their US trip, the DUP leader said they were “both mature politicians” and that they both had “a desire to get the very best we can for the people we both represent”.

He added: “We come from very different backgrounds and there will always be difficulties but there is a resolve there on both of our parts to ensure that we can get over the obstacles that we are faced and ensure that we do get a better life for the people in Northern Ireland with greater prosperity.”

Mr McGuinness said it was the responsibility of both leaders to develop the site “in a way that will bring much-needed jobs for the people that we represent.”

He estimated that the redevelopment project could create 5,000 jobs. “I am very determined that we will continue with that work,” he said.

The Sinn Fein politician compared the Maze site with the rebuilt World Trade Centre building in New York, known as Freedom Tower, which the two political leaders visited today. He described the project as “a very serious attempt at regeneration in that area” that will be a “spectacular success.”

“We have the same opportunity at Maze-Long Kesh. This is a prime site, probably one of the most important sites in the whole of western Europe, ” said Mr McGuinness.

The Northern Irish political leaders were speaking after a tour of the Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, New York where popular television shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Damages are filmed.

Pat Doherty, the chairman of the Titanic Quarter, and other executives of the Belfast regeneration project, which is also home to film and television studios, accompanied the politicians on the visit. The Brooklyn and Belfast projects are similar as both involved the wide-scale redevelopment of a shipyard.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness attended a Wall Street event tonight to recognise the achievements of Irish-American and Irish-born figures in New York’s financial industry.