Haass talks: DUP 'right to say no' says Ian Paisley Jr

Ian Paisley Jr Ian Paisley Jr made the remarks during a debate in the House of Commons

Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian Paisley Jr has said his party was right to say no to the final Haass proposals on flags, parades and the past.

The proposals were drawn up by the former US diplomat Richard Haass, during talks aimed at resolving contentious issues in Northern Ireland.

During a Commons debate other DUP MPs also voiced concerns at the Haass plan.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said no deal was better than one that would only exacerbate divisions.

The Haass talks broke up without agreement in Belfast on 31 December, following weeks of intensive negotiations.

In a new statement on Wednesday, Dr Haass and talks vice-chair Prof Meghan O'Sullivan said they believed people were being "unrealistic in the extreme" if they expected to like "each and every element" of the final proposals and still secure a deal among the five main Stormont parties.

However, Dr Haass and Prof O'Sullivan also said they endorsed the setting up of a five-party working group to try to resolve the outstanding issues.

The establishment of an all-party working group was recommended by the DUP leader Peter Robinson on Tuesday, as he delivered his party's formal response to the final Haass document.

Meanwhile, the loyal orders, which include the Orange Order and other Protestant organisations involved in parades, have said they "remain committed to playing a positive role in the process going forward".

In a joint statement, the loyal orders said: "While it is clear resolution regarding the three outstanding issues is proving difficult, that should not diminish the responsibility on all in society to find lasting solutions to these complex issues."

'One-sided'

Earlier, during Wednesday's debate in the House of Commons, DUP MPs expressed concerns about the balance struck in the Haass proposals between investigating the security forces and shining a light on the activities of paramilitaries.

Mr Paisley described the single Historical Investigations Unit, proposed in the final Haass document, as "fanciful".

The North Antrim MP also questioned where the funding for the new quangos envisaged under the proposals would be found, given the UK's financial deficit.

Labour MP Kate Hoey told the Commons that the final Haass document was one-sided, "equating the victims of terrorism with the terrorists".

She claimed that under the proposals, there was an attempt to change the history of what happened during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

However, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers agreed with the SDLP's Mark Durkan that the Haass proposals were not as imbalanced as Ms Hoey believed.

Ms Villiers said political parties in Northern Ireland should waste no time in moving matters forward.

However when challenged by the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell to take a lead in trying to overcome the outstanding disagreements, Ms Villiers said it was up to the Stormont parties themselves to reach agreement.

'Disagreeable'

Former Labour Northern Ireland minister Barry Gardiner challenged the secretary of state about what he described as the "downgrading" of the Parades Commission to a one day a week operation.

Ms Villiers insisted the Parades Commission was not being downgraded and said its "strong new team" would be able to complete their work.

In their joint statement, Dr Haass and Prof O'Sullivan said they were disappointed that their proposals did not receive universal support but said they "understand that no party is fully comfortable with every element of the text as finalised on 31 December 2013".

"Our experience in Northern Ireland suggests that those who believe they can ensure that each and every element of the agreement is to their liking - and still secure five party consensus - are being unrealistic in the extreme," their statement added.

"Politics inevitably requires that each party accept some elements it views as disagreeable in order to advance the greater good; indeed, it is only through compromise that the political parties will be able to collectively deliver the better future that the people of Northern Ireland demand and deserve."

The pair said they were now calling on the parties "to make clear to the people of Northern Ireland their timetable for completion of an agreement and urge them to move speedily toward its implementation".

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