Long – Haass talks success will require strong leadership

Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long MP has said her party’s delegation to the Haass talks are “determined but not naïve” regarding the potential for success of the inter-party discussions.

Mrs Long was speaking ahead of an Alliance delegation meeting with talks chair Dr Richard Haass today (Wednesday). The East Belfast MP said while Dr Haass had an important role as facilitator of the talks, he was “not the answer”.

Naomi Long MP said: “Any potential success emanating from these talks will require strong and generous leadership from local parties, something which has been clearly lacking over recent months. It will also require commitment not only to agree but to see those agreements through in practice. Independent chairmanship is important in facilitating agreement, which is why Alliance proposed it, but the drive and commitment to deliver results must come from local parties.

“While the three areas under discussion are each important in their own right, they are interconnected and are symptoms of our divided society and sectarianism. At its core, this process comes down to two key questions: firstly, do we want the places in which we live, work and play to be shared or not and, secondly, do we want to deal with our past in a way that frees us to build a better future together? If all parties agree that the answer to those questions is yes, then there is genuine hope for progress.

“If this process is to work, all parties have to put the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland above the interests of themselves and their supporters.

“People are weary of the squabbling, the violence and the disruption. They see not only the direct costs, but the indirect cost, in wasted time and lost opportunities. They want politicians to make the most of this opportunity, to deliver real change and that is what Alliance intends to do. The next few months will determine whether others share that commitment.”

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