Richard Haass talks: Final proposal document published

Dr Richard Haass says "significant progress" has been made

The final draft of proposals given to Northern Ireland's political parties by Richard Haass has been published on the Northern Ireland Executive website.

It came after months of talks on the issues of parades, flags and the legacy of the Troubles ended without a deal.

Earlier, the UK and Irish governments called for the proposals to be made public.

The seventh draft of the document was prepared by former US diplomat Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan.

Northern Ireland's five main parties met through the night in a final effort to settle differences but were unable to reach an agreement on the document.

Dr Haass, who chaired the talks, said that while a final agreement had not been reached, "significant progress" had been made and there was a "basis" for change.

New Year's Eve had been set as a deadline for agreement.

'Common ground'

Prime Minister David Cameron said that politicians in Northern Ireland must continue their efforts to secure agreement on divisive issues.

Mr Cameron said the talks had "achieved much common ground" nevertheless.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Irish government would work with Downing Street and Stormont to support further efforts to achieve greater peace.

Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass chaired a series of round-table talks

The proposed deal won broad support from Sinn Féin, the largest nationalist party, but others including the unionist DUP said unresolved issues over parades and flags meant more work was needed before consensus could be reached.

Dr Haass said: "We very much hope that the parties reflect on this, discuss it with their leadership and then come back with a strong endorsement. Over the next week we will know a lot more."

He said progress had been made in all three of the negotiating areas, especially the past, while flags and symbols had proven to be the "toughest area of negotiations".

Although he is flying home without a deal, Richard Haass believes his efforts haven't all been in vain.

The former US diplomat reckons he has made significant progress, especially on potential new institutions to deal with Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Dr Haass hopes the Stormont parties can move these matters forward in the months ahead.

That said, the Stormont politicians don't have a great track record in resolving tough issues without outside assistance.

So there's good reason for scepticism about their ability to deliver progress now Dr Haass and his talks co-chair Professor Meghan O'Sullivan have declared their involvement in these negotiations over.

Dr Haass, who was brought to Northern Ireland with co-chair Prof Meghan O'Sullivan in July by the first and deputy first ministers, said all five parties had "given it their best" and were "prepared to continue" with the process.

The US government also expressed their disappointment that the parties did not reach an agreement,

Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council said: "We commend the work of the independent chair and his team.

"Through months of consultations with civil society and the political parties -- undertaken at the request of the Northern Ireland Executive - Richard Haass and his team have done a remarkable job," she said.

"We believe that the draft text produced through the All-Party process represents real progress and makes a valuable contribution. We urge Northern Ireland's political leaders to continue to work together to build on this progress, including implementing the proposals where consensus already exists and as it emerges in all three areas."

The final push for a deal began at 10:00 GMT on Sunday and carried on until 05:00 GMT, and was on a seventh set of draft proposals put forward during the talks.

The three key issues have been:

  • The past - more than 3,500 people died in the Troubles, and in almost 3,300 cases no-one was prosecuted. Reaching agreement on how to investigate these killings and what to do about other people affected by the Troubles has so far proved impossible
  • Flags - this issue was highlighted last year when Belfast City Council's decision to fly the union flag from city hall and other council buildings only on 18 designated days sparked street protests
  • Parades - though many are not contentious, some unionist parades that pass through or close to nationalist areas have been controversial. A small number of nationalist parades have also proved contentious in the past

After the talks, Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams said there would be "a lot of disappointment" that agreement had not been reached, but he believed the proposals contained the "basis for a deal".

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said that while the "broad architecture" of the agreement was acceptable, "some of the language and detail is not what we would have chosen".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said "much has been achieved in terms of the past", and despite some concerns, he believed his party would endorse the proposals.

Mike Nesbitt, leader of the UUP, said he would not disclose his opinion on the proposals until after his party had "an honest debate" about its contents.

Alliance Party deputy leader Naomi Long said the talks had moved negotiations forward but there were still major challenges over the issues of parades and flags.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers expressed disappointment but said it was important that this was not "the end of the road".

And Labour's Ivan Lewis, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said: "The failure to reach a final agreement is deeply disappointing. However, significant common ground has been identified which should be the basis for future progress."

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