Haass/O’Sullivan: We are disappointed that all five have not [endorsed the agreement]

Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan haven’t quite gone away you know …

panelofparties website bannerIn a statement released this afternoon, the chair and vice-chair of the five party talks say:

We note that all five parties participating in the Panel of Parties in the Northern Ireland Executive have put forward views on the draft agreement of 31 December, 2013. This draft was the product of their intense engagement with one another and with the two of us over the last six months on the issues within our remit, namely, parades, flags and emblems, and addressing the past.

These terms of reference and this timetable, along with our mandate to preside at meetings and to facilitate agreement in our capacities as Chair and Vice Chair, were set by the office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and agreed to in advance by all the parties.

The agreement that resulted, if implemented, would make real progress toward contending with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, a necessary precondition to reconciliation and realising the promise of a shared future.

It would also devolve oversight of parades and other public assemblies to Northern Ireland and establish a process for addressing flags and the questions of identity with which they are so clearly associated.

We are pleased that some of the parties of the Executive have endorsed the agreement in its entirety and agreed to move forward on its implementation. We are disappointed that all five have not done so. Unquestionably, there are details that need further refinement, but these details should be honed in the necessary legislation and during implementation.

The statement goes on to admit that the draft is based on “months of conversations with individuals and groups within Northern Ireland as well as the five parties” and “reflects the often competing preferences of the five parties and what was required to bridge them”.

Our experience in Northern Ireland suggests that those who believe they can ensure that each and every element of the agreement is to their liking – and still secure five party consensus – are being unrealistic in the extreme.

Politics inevitably requires that each party accept some elements it views as disagreeable in order to advance the greater good; indeed, it is only through compromise that the political parties will be able to collectively deliver the better future that the people of Northern Ireland demand and deserve.

Leaders must be prepared to take and make precisely this case to their constituents and the broader public. We are confident that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland understand this reality and, when they consider the whole text, agree that its acceptance would move society forward.

In terms of a working group to implement debate agree next steps meet and talk:

Despite our disappointment that the draft agreement did not meet with universal support, we endorse the establishment of a working group by the five parties of the Executive. We continue to believe that it is desirable for the parties to reach a comprehensive agreement covering all three issues; comprehensive agreement may also be necessary in order to accommodate tradeoffs and compromises.

Haass and O’Sullivan leave the next steps firmly in the hands of the five parties and don’t discount cherry-picking.

That said, it is ultimately up to the five parties to determine whether the ability to move ahead in any one area should be dependent upon consensus on the whole. We call on the parties to make clear to the people of Northern Ireland their timetable for completion of an agreement and urge them to move speedily toward its implementation. {emphasis added]

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  • Son of Strongbow

    The “problem”, as some would have it, is that many MLAs, MPs and councillors who are members of the OO are able to be elected. Some characterise this as evidence of a lack of “civilisation” within this section of the electorate.

    I suppose that argument very much depends on how much attention is paid by these ‘barbarian’ voters to the politicians’ membership of the OO.

    That in turn may depend on what interest is paid by the electorate to the machinations of the OO.

    Allow me, as a unionist, to give a personal opinion. Firstly I have to state that in general terms I’ve little, if any, interest in the OO.

    I do, in common with many people, get peeved when delayed on the roads by an Orange parade. Then again I experience the same annoyance with road works, and geriatric twenty-five-miles-an-hourers cruising the ‘A’ roads.

    I’m more annoyed with the costs accrued in policing parades. However I understand that it takes two to tango so I spread my ire to encompass those who take to the streets to protest about parading.

    There again as I don’t live within a day’s walk of any ‘interface’ area I’m otherwise not bothered by these sectarian pas de deux.

    As to criminality committed by OO members and their supporters I leave that to the police to deal with. I am pleased to see many hundreds of arrests in that regard over the last year or so.

    In regards to commentary in response to such criminal behaviour I recognise a significant amount of it amounts to little more than nationalist, and Useful Fools’, hypocrisy.

    So back to voting. Both communities in NI have shown a marked disregard for the ‘quality’ of those they elect! So long as they wave the ‘right’ flag.

    Whereas no one has shown any interest in toting up the number of PIRA ‘soldiers’ [sic] sitting on the Sinn Fein benches, yet it is however the membership of the OO amongst unionist politicos that seemingly defines the absence of “civilisation” locally as manifested in those getting elected.

  • Morpheus

    I would go one further and suggest that it adds an element of dichotomy to the situation David. Unionism is by definition the desire for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK for cultural and economic reasons but to me the Orange Order in particular are very much about Protestant supremacy in Northern Ireland – ‘A Protestant Northern Ireland for a Protestant people’ to amend the quote a little.

    A desire for NI to remain part of the Union is totally legitimate and is something that Catholics can get behind but the OO’s perception of what Northern Ireland should look like is not. Catholics will simply not go back to being second class citizens again.

    So the political parties have a choice, they can allow the OO to dominate their ranks and practically push Catholics towards a united Ireland or they can reign them in for the sake of Northern Ireland remaining part of the Union.

  • David Crookes

    SoS (2.23 pm): yes, some of what I and others have been saying must seem very unbalanced from a moral point of view. Set the recent lawless behaviour of loyalists beside the war waged by an organization whose veterans are presently in government, and it may seem like very small beer.

    Everything comes down to the question of then and now. The SAA was swallowed by many unionists without relish as a vehicle in which all of us might drive from the past to the future. As well as closing our eyes to the crimes of people on the other side, we accepted that some aspects of loyalism belonged to the past, and not to the future.

    Unlike yourself, SoS, some of us on the unionist side have over the decades cherished something between tolerance and warm affection for loyalism. As a younger man I took part both as a chorister and as a member of the congregation in Orange services. Today it horrifies me to think that any Christian church might suggest to any nationalist that if he wants to become a Christian he has to become a unionist as well.

    And it saddens me today to know that unionist politics is still in thrall to unelected members of an organization with which most unionists have nothing to do.

    Those of us who criticize loyalism from the Protestant side of the fence are not lambasting our own sort with the blind disproportionate zeal of those who have ‘torned’. We’re only trying to bate ourselves out of our own folk, like the father who tried to bate himself out of his mischievous son.

    Morpheus, I reckon that you’re right. It’s curious that ascendant Protestantism should characterize a time when attendance in many Protestant churches is waning. To me that sounds as if the new godless religion is nothing more than WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM THEM.

  • sherdy

    We are constantly reminded of the fault in our government in that we have ‘terrorists/former terrorists’ sitting at Stormont.
    That certainly is the case, but are we sure that is only one-sided?
    Since the start of our troubles we have seen unionist politicians marching with, and speaking from UDA/UVF platforms. We have had David Trimble holding meetings with Billy Wright (LVF). We have seen Paisley and Robinson in their red berets addressing Ulster resistance supporters, and Robinson’s invasion of Clontibret.
    Do we really believe that none of them really did cross the line and take part in actual terrorism’, protected of course by their friends in the RUC and Special Branch?

  • David Crookes

    Yes, sherdy. Were any politicians involved in the illegal importation and distribution of arms? The big boys who have used these persons as pieces on the board don’t like you to ask that question.

    There’s a lot of darkness on both sides. If you thought I was being one-sided, I’m sorry.

    What worries me is the fact that the people who protest most clamantly about terrorists in government have been effectively supportive of the lawless violence which recently climaxed in murderous arson. I hardly need to mention the Mighty Phalanx which turned up to support Ruth Patterson.

    Whiter-than-white self-characterization from certain unionist politicians won’t wash with anyone. As Leonard Cohen says, everybody knows. Were newly imported rifles held up in Sandy Row Orange Hall one night? Were any politicians present?