Richard Haass wants public input into all-party NI talks

Richard Haass wants the public to contribute to the talks

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The man who is to chair all-party talks on some of the most divisive issues confronting Northern Ireland wants them to be as inclusive as possible.

Richard Haass also said he wanted to hear from members of the public.

The US diplomat was speaking after a meeting with Northern Ireland's leaders in New York on Wednesday.

He is due in Northern Ireland next week for talks on the controversial issues of flags, parading and how to deal with the past.

Dr Haass also said that he did not think this summer's violence or the dispute over the Maze peace centre would poison the atmosphere at the talks.

He said: "We're going to be meeting with a wide range of groups. In many cases the groups have already come to us, and what we've done is we've tried to meet with as many as we can when we come here in September.

'Public responses'

"We're going to be back again in October and for those we're not able to meet with this first time we'll meet with next time.

"The whole idea is to be as inclusive as we possibly can, and we have also asked for public responses, whether it is community groups or other groups.

"What we'd like to do is hear from as many people and organisations as have views. The idea of the process is not to cut people out, it is to bring people in.

Robinson McGuinness Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson arrive for their talks with Richard Haass

"We don't come to it with any monopoly of information or insight of wisdom, and so we look forward to hearing from as many people as we can and meeting with as many people as we can schedule."

Dr Hass met First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the offices of his think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.

Former US senator George Mitchell, who chaired the Northern Ireland peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, had earlier praised Dr Haass as "a very able man" who would make every effort to resolve the issues.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are in America to encourage investment in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, they will visit the New York Yacht Club for the annual Wall Street 50 awards.

The event recognises the accomplishments of Irish-American and Irish-born leaders of the financial industry.

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