Haass: Real opportunity for progress on flags and parades issues

The former US diplomat Richard Haass has said there is a real opportunity for progress today, as talks resume on some of the North's most contentious issues.

Plenary talks with all five parties will be held this afternoon, after they broke up without agreement on Christmas Eve.

The talks will focus on issues like flags, parades and violence related to the Troubles.

The Irish correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer, Henry McDonald, says the fast return of Richard Haass to Belfast today could be a good sign.

Dr Haass and his vice-chairman Harvard professor Dr Meghan O’Sullivan were brought to Northern Ireland in July by the First Minister Peter Robinson and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with an aim of finding consensus on the displaying of national flags, the holding of parades and how to come to terms with the violence of the past.

Mr Haass and Ms O'Sullivan wrote a piece for the Belfast Telegraph and noted it was 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement.

“While substantial progress has been made, urgency must be the order of the day.

“The gains made over the past decade and a half can be lost and even if they are not, much more needs to happen before peace and a shared future are assured.

“An agreement from these negotiations would not solve all the remaining problems but it would dramatically increase the odds that Northern Ireland begins to live up to its potential.

“The opportunity should be seized while it still exists.”

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