Richard Haass sees no role for himself in fresh NI talks

Retired US diplomat says baton has been handed to local parties

Dr Richard Haass  with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at Iveagh House in Dublin. Photographh: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Dr Richard Haass with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at Iveagh House in Dublin. Photographh: Niall Carson/PA Wire


Retired US diplomat Dr Richard Haass has said he foresees no role for himself ahead of a fresh attempt to revive talks between Northern leaders on the past, flags and parade.

While there had been speculation that Dr Haass and his colleague Dr Meghan O’Sullivan would return to the North for a new negotiation, he said today in Dublin that they do not plan to return.

“I don’t foresee a formal role for myself and Dr O’Sullivan at this point. We worked as hard, as you know, as creatively as we could last year. I think at this point the baton is essentially handed off to the local parties themselves and tothe governments,” he said.

“It’s not obvious to me that you need at this point someone taking the kind of role that I was asked to undertake last fall.”

Dr Haass was speaking after meeting Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at Iveagh House.

Northern leaders are expected to resume their deliberations next Tuesday but it is not yet clear whether they will proceed to a full negotiation.

Although Mr Gilmore sees a window for Northern leaders to make progress before the loyalist marching season in July, Dr Haass said it was not clear to him that all work had to stop during the period.

Dr Haass and Dr O’Sullivan tabled formal proposals to Northern leaders late last year but the talks broke up without a deal on New Year’s Eve.

While the detention without charge of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in the Jean McConville investigation injected a new sense of political urgency into the situation, both the Irish and British governments held back until the conclusion of the Northern elections yesterday .

“The election season is now over,” Mr Gilmore said. “It’s important now that those discussions are resumed and resumed with a new urgency and a new purpose once these elections are out of the way.”

Dr Haass was flying back to the US today immediately after his meeting with the Tánaiste. In London yesterday he met British prime minister David Cameron and Northern Ireland secretary of state Theresa Villiers.

Mr Gilmore said Ms Villiers will meet him in Dublin next week. “The governments will play a constructive and active role in all of this. we’ll remain very very close to it and we’ll continue to work together.”