The US administration is determined that talks aimed at breaking the political deadlock in Northern Ireland should succeed, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said ahead of talks in Dublin today with Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers.
Mr Flanagan and Ms Villiers are meeting to plan intensive rounds of negotiations involving the British and Irish governments and the North’s five main parties.
The talks will tackle a range of issues, including welfare reform and flags, the past and parades. They are due to start towards the end of this month and have an effective pre-Christmas deadline.
“Our discussion is about how we can best work with the North’s political parties to resolve current difficulties and legacy issues which continue to have a corrosive effect on government and across the community in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Flanagan.
Biden and Kerry
The Minister said he would also brief Ms Villiers on his recent trip to the US, where he met senior political figures including vice-president
and secretary of state
“Vice-president Biden and secretary of state Kerry assured me that the US administration is determined that the planned talks should succeed,” said Mr Flanagan.
“Their continued support for the peace process and support for this talks process should encourage all those involved to engage in a spirit of common purpose to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland,” he added. Today’s talks take place as senior American politicians and diplomats put pressure on Northern political leaders to resolve the political differences that are threatening the future of the Northern Executive and Assembly.
They wrote to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, calling on them to end the logjam, the BBC reported last night.
The letter was written by influential US figures who have played a prominent role in the peace process. They included two former presidential US envoys to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss and Paula Dobriansky.
Also among the signatories were former American ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney; Bruce Morrison, who was involved in sensitive negotiations ahead of the first IRA ceasefire 20 years ago; and Jim Walsh, who chaired the Friends of Ireland Committee in the US Congress.
‘Ways of conflict’
All expressed concern that a new generation could return to violence and said the peace process was losing its power to inspire.
The letter said “children growing up without a vision of a shared cross-community future can too easily learn the ways of conflict again”.
They also referred to the recent death of Ian Paisley, stating, "His passing was a milestone and a cause for reflection on the Irish peace process – how far it has come, how much remains unfinished and how much remains at risk."
They pledged continuing US support to see current difficulties resolved. “During the peace process, even at its darkest hour, unionist and nationalists alike recognised and appreciated the American role.
“They thanked us for shining a bright light on the process and keeping the outside world focused on the developments. The light is back on and we pledge our help going forward.”