Slugger O'Toole

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“The parties were told not to bring in any phones or other communication devices, nor to leave with any copies of the draft.”

Mon 16 December 2013, 11:48pm

Richard Haass’ attempt to ensure confidentiality during the on-going talks between the five Northern Ireland Executive parties – on the past, parades, and flags - failed to survive first contact with Sinn Féin.  Today the Haass team presented their first, complete, draft proposals to the parties.  The BBC report notes his latest attempt at ensuring confidentiality.

While the parties examined the proposals at Stormont, talks chairman Dr Haass had travelled to London to meet the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Downing Street officials.

Dr Haass was expected to brief them on progress to date.

He will return on Tuesday for another round of talks with Northern Ireland politicians.

Dr Haass has previously said he is determined to bring the talks to a head by the end of the year.

Five rooms were set aside inside the Stormont Hotel in Belfast on Monday for the political parties to examine Dr Haass’s draft document.

The parties were told not to bring in any phones or other communication devices, nor to leave with any copies of the draft. [added emphasis]

And whilst four of those five parties appear to have been willing to talk directly to the media in general terms about the proposals afterwards, someone seems to have gone into more specifics with the Irish Times’ Gerry Moriarty[Is Haass still asking that immortal question? - Ed]  Perhaps…  From the Irish Times report

Other ideas in the paper include a new flag for Northern Ireland that would be acceptable to both communities and the potential for limited immunity in return for truth telling by those who committed Troubles-related killings and other crimes, sources said today.

One of the main proposals that Dr Haass has presented in his document is the creation of a central organisation to deal with Troubles killings. Currently such investigations fall within the remit of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman.

But under Dr Haass’s proposal this new umbrella body would replace the HET and handle all past killings, sources said today. It would also free up the PSNI and the office of Police Ombudman to concentrate on the present rather than on the past, the sources added.

Sources said that the idea of limited immunity for people who committed Troubles-related killings in return for victims and survivors being offered the truth from perpetrators is implicit rather than explicit in the draft proposal paper. [added emphasis]

A body to replace the current Parades Commission is also proposed, sources said, notwithstanding that the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers on Friday appointed a new Parades Commission to serve a three-year term.

She made clear however that if the Haass talks devised an acceptable alternative that the commission would be quickly disbanded.

Sources said today however that the idea of new generally acceptable Northern Ireland flag and/or emblem was not designed to replace the union flag but to augment it.

Hmm… [When is the deadline, again? - Ed]  December… Christmas… the New Year…

Adds  A day later, and Sinn Féin also have “difficulties” with the draft proposals…

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Comments (38)

  1. son of sam (profile) says:

    There was obviously selective briefing to certain journalists as Brian Rowan on U T V tonight seemed quite knowledgeable on the main points.

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  2. USA (profile) says:

    Indeed Sam.

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  3. Might it be that one of the Parties is comfortable with proposals that require themmuns to compromise but will not agree with proposals that require them to compromise?

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  4. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    The only way to stop leaking is to pass out differently-worded copies of the proposals to each delegation so that based on the wording that is printed in the press one will know which delegation leaked. Then of course there must be real penalties for leaking, which is this type of exercise seems to be quite impossible. Usually leaking can only be stopped if it is coming from within the government without the head of government’s approval.

    Regarding the “amnesty” proposal it should be pretty easy to sort through the unsolved killings by the HET or PSNI and quickly determine which can any real hope of being prosecuted. All others the relatives should be advised that there is no hope of prosecution and that any real insight into the details of the murder will mean granting immunity for information and then leave it up to the families or the victims.

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  5. gendjinn (profile) says:

    tmitch57,

    amnesty, limited or otherwise, cannot work in this situation as the British state is in the drivers seat with regards to prosecution.

    It doesn’t benefit from the trade of confession for immunity. It simply choses not to prosecute its state forces for their crimes, for example the paratrooper murders of Bloody Sunday.

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  6. BarneyT (profile) says:

    The BBC is reporting that Robinson is unhappy with the draft, and in particular the flags proposal. Anyone got any insight on this?

    It appears that the draft has been received better in the other camps…..so I am assuming that SF might be accepting of a new NI flag? Unbelievable if that is the case…so I suspect I am barking up the wrong tree.

    Is the DUP angst regarding flags genuine? Are they playing to the galleries?

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  7. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    BarneyT

    I can only hope that they’re playing hard ball for if they suffocate a new flag they’re effectively kissing the union goodbye (OK, that was a simplification I know, but if they haven’t the wit to give the thumbs up to a new flag then what else are they oblivious to?)

    However, if they do the old “No! No! Never! Well, Okay…” thing then they’ll haemorrhage votes.

    Also, Arelene Foster said she’d be happy with a new flag if it was a St Pat’s Cross (or Fitzgerald Saltire, whatever floats yer boat).

    I find this promising as most prospective replacements for a new NI flag are St pat’s based.

    I say have a transferable vote based poll for the new flag: 5 choices.

    A tricolour (or a tricolour with a red hawnd in the middle), an Ulster banner, a St pat’s cross and 2 others.

    I’d actually laugh if the tricolour came out on tops…

    But I’d support it nonetheless, put my money where my mouth is so to speak.

    Anyhoo, enough of the flag chat, I like Tmitch’s proposal of smoking out the ‘tout’.

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  8. Droch_Bhuachaill (profile) says:

    Surely to the good Good SF can’t accept a new flag if they can’t accept NI as an entity? A step too far methinks…

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  9. Delphin (profile) says:

    As Mr N. Emerson says ‘Anyone stupid enough to fall for this DUP Haass sham fight… deserves to be governed by the DUP’
    You can tell they are bluffing – they say they are so angry they have ‘steam coming out of their ears’ and are ‘spitting blood’ (this paints a rather surreal picture)
    True anger in the DUP starts with threatening to sue the BBC and escalates to shouting ‘no surrender’ and never never no nay never etc etc…..

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  10. boondock (profile) says:

    Am Ghob Is this the flag you mean?

    http://i1037.photobucket.com/albums/a455/primus2x/Nationstates/IUflag.png

    Maybe thats why Peter has steam coming out of his ears lol

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  11. son of sam (profile) says:

    Does anyone seriously think that the two main parties are going to head into elections in 2014 having made sensible and reasonable compromises?!Dream on!

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  12. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    The fundamental problem with N Ireland/Ulster (NI/U) is constitutional. No resolution will be reached if that topic is not broached. Dissident loyalists and republicans need to realise that a utopain republic and Camelottian kingdom is unrealistic in the modern world. An Aristotelian golden mean is the the logical resolution to the counties of contention. Some form of unitary Ireland in alliance with an autonomised/regionalised Great Britain is the most amicable compromise. A new flag for all?

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  13. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    I’m warming to the Shinner single flagpole idea, and I can assure everyone just in case there is a smidgeon of doubt that I don’t normally give the Murder Party the time of day.

    But why stop at a flagpole? If the flag is to be regarded as the signature of the local area more can be done. Under the Irish Tricolour an Irish Language Act could apply, and that should mean the compulsory use of the language. Irish speaking civil servants would probably need to be moved about a bit to staff the offices in the various cantons, and if Irish speakers happen to be in short supply well I’m sure the good folks destined to live under the tricolour won’t mind waiting a bit longer in the queue. Free phrase books would of course be provided for those who can do no more than top and tail their speech with a couple of words in Irish.

    And anyway all those ‘community workers’ could step in. I know that might turn out to be like a jobs for the old comrades system, but again the local communities might not mind being eased out of local job opportunities for the greater good so to speak.

    There are opportunities as well in this time of recession. Obviously some people might be uncomfortable travelling through themuns areas so lots of by-passes could be built to avoid the need for contact. So Orangemen would be doing a lot of their walking on these new roads, and as IRA parades already don’t bother concentrating on the spot where their gang members died they shouldn’t be inconvenienced at all.

    On the law and order front there may be enough volunteers (no pun intended) within the PSNI that would relocate to Tricolour zones with the remainder opting to continue under the Union Flag. Those living in the shade of the Tricolour would I expect opt for a ‘truth-telling’ system and the rest can stick with Justice and jail time where appropriate.

    Perhaps if it all worked out the nationalist bombers would also stick to bombing their own shops and restaurants and leave the rest of us alone? If not we could start building more ‘peace walls’: again jobs for the building trade in this recession. Win win all round I’d say.

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  14. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    Strongbow – the tongue in cheek post highlights the real problem. Partition has not solved anything and indeed has concentrated and deepened the problem while restricting it, to the most part, in six counties.

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  15. between the bridges (profile) says:

    Imho the only way to judge if Ha ass has been a success, is if he manages to piss everyone off…

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  16. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Some girls do
    Some girls don’t
    Some girls will
    Some girls wont
    But the ones I like the best
    Alright
    Are those who say they wont
    …..but you think they might

    Its all just Choreography girls. Tripe gins all round and even bigger Ministerial Cars. More money for pet projects in key constituencies. then the key final phase

    Will you do it?

    No we wont.

    Yes we will.

    No we wont.

    Yes we will.

    Well we might do it but only if themuns is FORCED do that as well

    Oh alright then – go on

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  17. I think Cynic is right (but now I have to find a new verse for my valentine cards)

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  18. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only political junkie who finds the whole Haass process utterly torturous and predictable.

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  19. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Adds A day later, and Sinn Féin also have “difficulties” with the draft proposals…

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  20. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    I’m miffed that no ones going for the little tribal fiefdoms idea. It would be a return to the island’s social roots. We could even reintroduce stealing cattle from the neighbours as an annual cross-borders event. Gaels of laughter all round I’d say.

    Coll you’re right. The lost 26 should never have absented themselves from the UK; the only natural political dispensation on the British Isles.

    cynic2 is on the money (pun intended) it’s all predictable maladroit choreography with hammy ‘we couldn’t possibly do that’ shrieks thrown in from the political dwarfs that make up the local political cast.

    Appropriate in one sense though, it is after all panto season.

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  21. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    I think that Droch_Bhuachaill may have got it wrong when he concludes that, “SF can’t accept a new flag if they can’t accept NI as an entity“. It strikes me that it is precisely because Sinn Féin see the Six-County entity as a temporary political aberration that they can be agnostic on the question of a flag to represent that entity, the moreso if such a flag were to be chosen by or demonstrated as being acceptable to both communities. But the flag of the Republic (that is the Republic of Easter 1916, not that dishonest, treacherous usurper of Leinster House) will, I trust, remain the tricolour.

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  22. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    That’s great Rory: I, for one, can’t wait to see the new, SF-sanctioned “official flag of Northern Ireland” appear on the streets of Ardoyne and the backroads of Cullyhanna.

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  23. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    How about this one?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arklow

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  24. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    The point, Tir Chonaill Gael, is that Sinn Féin would, I imagine, be totally agnostic towards any such flag, indeed might even be quite tolerant of it, but that would not amount to “sanctioning” it. However, what people might or might get up to in the back lanes of Cullyhanna, I would not care to venture an opinion.

    When I was younger I would have been quite taken with Billy Pilgrim’s “Arklow” flag but now, approaching nearer to death and my liberty often confined to my room which is quite cosy and full of books and music and opportunities for global communication, I am quite content to opt for this lack of liberty over the alternative. Especially since I understand that LAD, and You Tube are not accessible beyond the grave.

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  25. iluvni (profile) says:

    Does that clown Jonathan Bell practise those oh so serious deep thinker faces he pulls for the cameras when one of his colleagues is speaking?

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  26. BarneyT (profile) says:

    I might have a wee play with the south African flag to see what I can come up with. I think there’s scope and some un\fortunate parallels to draw from with SA in general.

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  27. streetlegal (profile) says:

    The outcome of the Haas talks will be something along these lines.

    Mr Haas – ‘I’d like to congratulate all of the parties for their serious engagement. All parties have agreed to the formation of a working group which will continue to work on the detail of these issues in the new year, That’s all folks – now I’m out of here. See ya – wouldn’t want to be ya!’

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  28. streetlegal,

    Unfortunately, I think your post is spot on.

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  29. dodrade (profile) says:

    We’ve been here before, I suspect things may actually go better than expected.

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  30. son of sam (profile) says:

    iluvni
    Agreed.Looks more like a nodding dog to me!He almost seems to be saying”I’m a Junior Minister in need of further advancement .I must agree vigorously with everything my leader says”!

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  31. BetsyGray (profile) says:

    I think the whole procrastination fest going on currently will end up as a steaming pile of ‘fudge’…….to be visited again after next years elections….remember- turkeys don’t vote for Xmas……..it’ll be a sort of starter for 10… after the event ….just in time for the crazies of the summer to come out….great..!

    iluvni….. nodding dog Bell has excellent non-verbal communication skills……is all in the eyebrows…!

    Merry Christmas.

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  32. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    Boondock

    That is indeed the flag.

    If nationalists got involved in a fleg-idol vote and that got voted in I’d live with the egg on my face.

    I’d find it funny actually.

    Between the Bridges
    “Imho the only way to judge if Ha ass has been a success, is if he manages to piss everyone off…”

    ABSOLUTELY. in NI surely that’s a ‘win’?

    Billy Pilgrim
    Well, while your on that path why don’t we tart it up a bit, give it a bit more of a bad-boy image?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chetniks_Flag.svg

    (can remove the ‘for king and fatherland’ bit though…)

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  33. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    FYI

    The flag Boondock was referring to:

    http://i1037.photobucket.com/albums/a455/primus2x/Nationstates/IUflag.png

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  34. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “Glad to see I’m not the only political junkie who finds the whole Haass process utterly torturous and predictable.”

    @Tir C. Gael,

    Unfortunately, the whole problem is a result of the Good Friday Agreement and the nature of the two leading parties. The GFA provides incentives to the parties that can maximize their control of the “unionist” and “nationalist” categories while it neutralizes the “other” category. The parties can maximize their support within their category by attacking the other side and seeming to stand up for their tribe against the other tribe. A good agreement would (have) provide(d) an incentive for the two communities to cooperate. That requires a condition for wide support across the province in both nationalist and unionist areas for a party to be represented in the Executive. But unfortunately, such an agreement would not commend itself to armed factions who can always threaten to return to war: “they haven’t gone away you know,” and “not an ounce, not a bullet.”

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  35. Delphin[10.09]And suing the BBC in public but keeping quiet on NOT suing the BBC. That’s the Robbo led DUP. Make a lot of noise, but do nothing. Nelson Mac is keeping a low profile as he knows where the bodies are buried.

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  36. carl marks (profile) says:

    SOS
    Coll you’re right. The lost 26 should never have absented themselves from the UK; the only natural political dispensation on the British Isles.

    Now I would love you to give proof for that rather wild claim.
    It seems to me that there are a awful lot of people with a great deal more political nonce than you who would not only disagree with you and could present reasoned arguments (something you don’t seem to do) to support their point.
    And this
    “I don’t normally give the Murder Party the time of day.”

    Were you not one of the posters on the thread about lad citing your belief that stereotyping the Fleggers was wrong but its ok for you to stereotype others?

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  37. Streetlegal[8.23] Aren’t you forgetting the bit where, like Reggie Maudlin’ he goes ‘What a bloody awful country, get me a double scotch!!!’

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  38. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    In an age of almost universal bugging, this advice was undoubtedly prudent. But I imagine the injunction was more about maintaining potency of proposals, and to guard against dilution by premature dissemination. I also strongly intuit that SFs earlier publication of their proposals were subsequently regretted, if undoubtedly well intentioned. I wish everyone in these vital talks the best of luck, not least the US moderators, whose task is surely as worthy of a Nobel peace prize for seeking to resolve imponderable conundrums. What transpires in NI reverberates in the ROI and GB.

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