Northern Ireland leaders meet US diplomat ahead of all-party talks

Robinson and McGuinness hold talks with envoy Richard Haass in New York

Martin McGuinness: said talks can cut the ground from under extremists on both the loyalist and republican sides who are trying to ruin the peace process.

Martin McGuinness: said talks can cut the ground from under extremists on both the loyalist and republican sides who are trying to ruin the peace process.

 


Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers met US diplomat Richard Haass in New York yesterday in advance of next week’s first all-party talks to discuss divisive issues.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness held discussions with Dr Haass, who will chair next week’s talks on the controversial issues of flags, parades and the past in Northern Ireland, on a five-day economic trip to the US.

Speaking before the meeting with Dr Haass, Mr Robinson said that the US diplomat cannot resolve the problems in Northern Ireland but “he can facilitate, he can push and he can nudge.”

“He can encourage but at the end of the day, it will be the parties in Northern Ireland who have to reach these agreements,” the First Minister told the BBC.

Mr McGuinness told the British broadcaster that the talks with Dr Haass can “cut the ground from under” extremists on both the loyalist and republican sides who are trying to ruin the peace process.

At an Irish-American event on Tuesday evening, they met former US senator George Mitchell who chaired the Northern Ireland peace talks that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement.

US investment
Meetings were also held with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Duncan Niederauer, chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, on Tuesday on a trip aimed at attracting US investment into Northern Ireland. They also met existing investors in Northern Ireland, NYSE Euronext, and the financial services company Citi, which plans to employ up to 1,500 in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter by 2015. The meetings took place ahead of an investment conference in Belfast next month.

Wall Street
Today Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will visit a regeneration project at Brooklyn Navy Yard that is similar to the Titanic Quarter. Tonight they will speak at an annual Wall Street event that recognises Irish-born and Irish-Americans in the New York financial industry.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International in a report today said victims of the Troubles were being “disgracefully let down” by a “flawed and fragmented approach” to dealing with the past.

A 78-page report, Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past, blames the “failure to deliver truth and justice” on a lack of political will from both the British government and Northern Ireland’s political parties.

“There’s a cruel irony in the fact that Northern Ireland is held up as a success story when many victims’ families actually consider their treatment a failure,” said Amnesty International director for Europe and Central Asia John Dalhuisen.

Victims of the violence endorsed one of the Amnesty report’s central complaints that processes such as those by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman and various coroners’ inquests had too narrow a remit and often left families with more questions than answers.

James Miller, whose grandfather David Miller was among nine people killed in a suspected IRA bomb attack in Claudy, Co Derry, in 1972, said families could not put the past behind them. “It’s said they are waiting for us to die out. But the next generation will still keep asking questions.”