Haass finalising proposals on parades, flags and the past

US diplomat expected to present paper to North’s five main parties today

US diplomat Dr Richard Haass: hostile reaction to his initial proposals. Photograph:  Paul Faith/PA Wire

US diplomat Dr Richard Haass: hostile reaction to his initial proposals. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire


Dr Richard Haass was today finalising new proposals to tackle the three contentious issues of parades, flags and the past.

The US diplomat is expected to present the North’s five main parties with his new paper sometime this afternoon or evening in anticipation of crunch talks tomorrow as parties try to reach a Christmas agreement.

Dr Haass had hoped to present his new proposals earlier but such was the reaction to his first paper on Monday - with unionists particularly hostile - that he and his team spent all day yesterday and part of today drafting some fresh ideas.

British prime minister David Cameron and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore last night urged the Northern parties to reach an acceptable compromise.

After a week of intensive talks, the US diplomat and his colleague, Harvard professor Meghan O’Sullivan, were last night focusing on devising a new paper that could lead to a pre-Christmas agreement on the three controversial issues.

Proposals presented to the parties on Monday produced some progress on the past and parades. But there was disagreement over flags, particularly from unionists, who objected to the British union flag mainly flying over official buildings on some 18 designated days. The possibility of the Tricolour flying on some buildings on days when the President and Taoiseach were visiting also triggered unionist opposition.

It was initially hoped that Dr Haass would have updated proposals for the parties earlier yesterday, but with the five main parties lobbying on the key issues, he decided to keep working on a draft paper up until last night, in anticipation of crunch talks today.

Mr Cameron called for “give and take” after DUP MP Gregory Campbell complained that Dr Haass’s initial paper was unacceptable because it diluted the North’s “Britishness”.

“I hope that everyone will try to look at this process with some give and take to try and bring communities together,” Mr Cameron told the East Derry MP.

Mr Gilmore and Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers said the Haass talks offered the possibility of progress. “What matters here is the outcome. We are both governments kept in the picture . . . At this point it is not helpful to get into individual aspects of the negotiations,” Mr Gilmore said.