Long responds to Haass comments

Alliance Deputy Leader, Naomi Long MP, has said that the Alliance Party gave its honest assessment of the Haass document but also gave a clear commitment to implementing the process. She was speaking after the Talks chairman, Richard Haass, called on the parties who did not fully endorse the whole document, to justify their reasoning.

Naomi Long MP said: “I understand and share Richard Haass’ frustration at the lack of progress. However, I am more concerned at the frustrations of the public who did not want to see more discussions on these issues but rather wished to see them resolved in order that we can focus attention and resources on wider issues like health, the economy and education.

“While we have committed ourselves to implementing the process, we reserve the right to be honest with the public about where we think these proposals will really move Northern Ireland forward and achieve a shared future, and where they may not do that.

“We wanted an ambitious deal for the people of Northern Ireland to deal with these sensitive issues. In some parts we have an ambitious deal such as on the past where we think the proposals are good and we want to drive the agenda forward on this section. However, while there are new structures on parades, the real problem with parades was attitudes and behaviour. The refusal by Unionists to agree to a comprehensive code of conduct for marchers and protestors showed that perhaps we have not seen the change in attitudes to resolve this issue and deliver real change on the ground.

“I said we wouldn’t go into these talks to cook fudge and we wouldn’t sell fudge. However the proposals on flags was fudge to make a lack of deal more palatable to the public. During the talks, Unionists refused a deal on flags on lampposts and Nationalists refused a deal on flags on Council and Government buildings. We wanted to see the issue of flags finally resolved across the board.

“In short, the Alliance Party has given a green light to the proposals on the past, an amber light on parades as questions remain over the commitment of parties to support the rule of law, and a red light on flags as there was no agreement, just a commitment to more talking. We could not accept process to hide a lack of progress. Richard Haass has even admitted that there is no agreement on flags.

“It is now important for party leaders to go into their meeting on Tuesday with a commitment to implementation where there is agreement and to close the gaps where there is not. That process must be time-limited or momentum will be lost as will the promise of real progress for the people of Northern Ireland.”


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