‘Vast majority’ in North willing to compromise, claims Richard Haass
Chairman of talks says submissions from public give ‘a strong sense that people want to have normal lives’
Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass is due to meet the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The former US diplomat, who is chairing talks aimed at finding accommodation on parades, flags and legacy issues from the Troubles, is back in Belfast for a week-long round of talks with political parties and civic groups.
He is due to meet the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in Dublin on Thursday. He will also travel to London for talks with Northern secretary Theresa Villiers before returning to Belfast to host plenary talks with delegations from the five Stormont Executive parties.
Speaking to The Irish Times on his arrival yesterday, Dr Haass rejected talk of pessimism in the face of fresh controversy following the 20th anniversary of the IRA Shankill bombing and moves by unionists in Westminster to define a “victim” of the Troubles.
“There is a strong sense that people want to have normal lives,” he said. “People want a Northern Ireland that is not defined by the set of issues that is concerning us here, but are concerned by the issues that face every modern society.”
Referring to some 300 written submissions received to date on proposals for the future, the former US special envoy said most people craved normality. “People I believe are ready for that. There has been a lot of progress and there is more progress to be made. There is also concern about some things that threaten the progress.”
He added: “My own sense from the bulk of submissions is that the vast majority of the people here are ready for compromise and for progress and are ready to move on.”
Dr Haass, who is working alongside former US security adviser Prof Meghan O’Sullivan following an invitation from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to help chart a path to progress after a violent summer in Belfast, said the British, Irish and US governments would continue to play an important role.
“There are things Washington, Dublin and London ought to say and ought to do. That’s always been the history of progress here and I don’t see why that would stop now,” he said.