Local MLAs front-up debate on Haass

By Ciara Quinn

West Belfsat MLAs led the debate at Stormont on Monday on the fall-out from the Haass talks.

The talks, which broke up without a deal on December 31, aimed to help resolve ongoing disputes over flags, parades and the past.

Speaking following a narrow defeat by 52 votes to 49 of  the Sinn Féin motion to implement the proposals, SF Junior Minister Jennifer McCann, who was one of the party’s negotiators during the talks said: “Once again we have seen an opportunity being missed to implement a set of progressive proposals to deal with parades and the past. Political unionism in its inability to compromise and reach consensus is contributing to the growing sense of disillusionment that many people are feeling in the wake of the Haass process.

“On Monday we listened to the voices of political unionism treat the past as if it were some kind of contest that had to be won, despite the fact that most people believe there are many different and competing narratives about the past and many different perspectives on what happened.

 

Compromises

“No party that was involved in the Haass discussions came away with everything they wanted.  Sinn Féin went into the process knowing that given it involved five political parties there was always going to have to be compromises made. A lot more has to be done in terms of delivering equality, respect and parity of esteem in terms of flags and emblems and issues of culture and identity.

“At this moment we have an opportunity to implement a set of proposals that will provide us with a mechanism of accountability in relation to contentious or controversial parades and a mechanism to deal with legacy issues.”

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the strongest part of the Haass process was “the voices of victims and survivors.” He went on: “In September, they [Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan]  told me that they did not agree with the SDLP that the issue of the past could be comprehensively dealt with. Yet, on the eve of the talks ending, they told Joe Byrne and me that they accepted that they were wrong. Will we now compound the potential for wrongdoing by denying victims and survivors, communities and all the generations the fullest possible explanation, accountability, truth and investigation in that regard?

“It seems that, whether by design or default, we are stumbling towards that conclusion unless we show the wisdom, insight and understanding that victims and survivors demonstrated during the six months of the Haass process.  We are now in that moment. The biggest and boldest part of Haass/O’Sullivan could begin to be unpicked and unravelled in a way that denies individuals and communities what they have argued for over the past six months.

“If that were to transpire, whether because of the actions of all the parties or the actions of some, it would be a withering indictment upon all that sacrifice and all the wisdom they demonstrated over the past six months.”

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