Unmistakeable taste of freshly-picked cherries

Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass chaired the round-table talks Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass chaired the round-table talks

According to the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, Richard Haass gave the Stormont parties only three options with his final seventh draft document - say Yes, say No, or take it back to your party. But don't - according to Mr Nesbitt - cherry-pick.

Yet now we have all the party responses in, (assuming Sinn Féin's Ard Comhairle meeting will ratify their negotiators' acceptance), the taste of freshly-plucked cherries is unmistakeable.

Alliance objected strongly to the procrastination over flags and thought the parading section needed major changes.

But they were prepared to accept the remaining third of a deal - setting up new institutions to deal with the past.

If this was cherry-picking, then it's also worth pointing out that Alliance was the only negotiating team given the explicit power to say yes or no to a deal at the final round table session.

The DUP leader Peter Robinson has taken issue with Mike Nesbitt's all-or-nothing approach.

In his report, Mr Robinson described the notion that the Haass manuscript had to be accepted or rejected in its entirety was a "misapprehension".

No secret

The DUP has not been as transparent as Alliance about which Haass cherries it likes and which it doesn't - however Mr Robinson's assertion that the Haass structures "need much more work before they could function in the best interests of the community" falls well short of an endorsement.

Speaking in the Stormont Great Hall, Mr Robinson declined the opportunity to list his areas of disagreement, but unionists in and around the talks made no secret of the fact that they were unhappy about the proposed parading code of conduct and much of the language used in relation to dealing with the past.

Presenting the UUP's more unequivocal "No" to the Haass proposals at Templepatrick, Mike Nesbitt spelled out those concerns.

He described extra criteria placed on parades as "sinister" and argued that the new investigative bodies related to the past would not shift the focus onto the role of the IRA and loyalists but continue to shine a bright light mainly on the state and its security forces.


By contrast to the unionists' reservation, we have Sinn Féin's recommendation to accept and the SDLP's "general endorsement" of the Haass proposals.

So in summary, Haass Seven got two acceptances, one rejection and two exercises in cherry-picking.

A cross-party working group may now be set up to consider what to do next, but there is disagreement about what the role of such a working group should be.

Martin McGuinness wants it to implement Haass Seven as it stands, but Peter Robinson said it should "resolve outstanding areas of disagreement and implement agreements when identified".

On Stormont's previous track record don't hold your breath waiting for the group to produce Haass Eight (minus Haass, of course).

DUP response to Haass proposals

UUP response to Haass proposals

Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I agree with the points about the stunning ineptitude of our policitians. They think they are doing their jobs by wasting time with Haas and letting our schools, hospitals and economy got down the toilet. Frankly they are morons. However I also agree that progress will never be made with unionists. They have always been and continue to be a barrier to any progress being made in NI.

    God help US

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Sinn Féin and the SDLP have assented to sign up but the Unionists parties want to keep the place frozen in a time somewhere between 1690 and 1920 depending on how 'progressive' they are. Unionism has always been the roadblock to progress, look at how mealy mouthed they were over the Good Friday Agreement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The SDLP and Sinn Fein have signalled their agreement with the Haass proposals. If we accept that Haass is a neutral arbitrator (though some Unionists say he's not) then the stumbling block is in the Unionist camp.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Some of the comments and even elements of the media have run with the 'both sides are as a bad as each other' aproach and 'a plague on both their houses'. This despite the rather obvious fact that it is unionists alone who have rejected Haas.The SDLP and SF have accepted the proposals.


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