Haass says Larkin proposal ‘instructive’

US diplomat learns from ‘scale and intensity’ of response

Dr Richard Haas: “scale and the intensity of the reaction was instructive.’

The generally hostile reaction to the proposal by Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin that a line should be drawn under the past has proved "instructive" to his deliberations, the US diplomat Dr Richard Haass has stated in Belfast.

Dr Haass also insisted that he and US foreign affairs expert Dr Meghan O’Sullivan who are chairing the all-party talks designed to reach agreement on parades, flags and the past have not “scaled down” their level of ambition about what can be achieved.

Dr Haass and Dr O’Sullivan held a number of meetings yesterday including a plenary session with the five main Northern parties engaged in the talks.

They also met the Mr Larkin who remains at the centre of a controversy after he proposed there should be no more prosecutions or inquiries into Troubles-relating killings up to 1998. “I thought the scale and the intensity of the reaction was instructive,” said Dr Haass, adding that it was “crystallising” how important was the issue of the past. When more than 10 years ago, as president George W Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, he was involved in talks on matters such as decommissioning the issue of the past barely featured but now it was very much high on the agenda.


“Intentionally or unintentionally what John Larkin said contributed to that crystallisation,” said Dr Haass.

Dr Haass and Dr O’Sullivan return to the US today after a week of talks. They are back in Belfast on December 9th for two weeks of what will be the most intensive period of the negotiations.

“We leave here with a better understanding of where the parties stand and with a clear sense of the areas of agreement and the areas where agreement has not been found,” he said.

Meanwhile, the British Labour Party said the Historical Enquiries Team in Northern Ireland should be made fully independent and given increased powers to investigate killings during the Troubles.

The submission has been made by Labour's newly appointed shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, Ivan Lewis, who said there is "a strong case" for arguing that the inquiries team should have five years to do its job, and no more.
He also proposed that a commission headed by a major international figure should be set up to oversee all aspects of dealing with Northern Ireland's past, such as truth recovery, truth and justice and reconciliation.

However, there were sharp words from DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds as he told his party’s annual conference that republicanism had failed, nationalism was struggling to keep a united Ireland on the political agenda, and the IRA was defeated. Mr Dodds described Sinn Féin as “failures” and said Gerry Adams must not be allowed to walk away from his responsibilities over the Disappeared.

He also dismissed Mr Larkin’s proposal for an end to prosecutions and inquiries into Troubles-relating killings.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times