Richard Haass plan: Sinn Féin motion rejected by assembly

Hass and O'Sullivan Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan chaired the talks

A Sinn Féin motion calling for steps towards implementing the Haass proposals has been rejected by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Haass talks focussed on the issues of flags, parades and the past.

Chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass and Harvard academic Prof Meghan O'Sullivan, the negotiations ended on New Year's Eve without agreement.

The motion was defeated by 52 votes to 49. Amendments by the UUP, the DUP and Alliance were also voted down.

The leaders of the five main parties at Stormont are due to meet later this week to discuss the way ahead.

Earlier, Sinn Féin accused the DUP and the Ulster Unionists of a "failure of leadership".

South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane made the comments during the Stormont debate.

The DUP had proposed an amendment that would delete any reference to the Haass proposals being implemented.

The DUP's Arlene Foster said there was "still much work to do" on the proposals.

The UUP also proposed an amendment to the Sinn Féin motion, which calls on the first and deputy first ministers to agree to proposals for a practical and a positive way forward.

Peter Robinson has urged the political parties to itemise areas of agreement Peter Robinson has urged the political parties to itemise areas of agreement

In a separate amendment, the Alliance Party wanted another process to examine difficulties over parades and flags and have called for an independently chaired mechanism to be set up urgently.

Earlier, Northern Ireland's first minister said any work on the Haass proposals should examine in detail all 340 elements in the document.

Peter Robinson told the assembly the parties must itemise areas of agreement.

Speaking during First Minister's Questions at Stormont, the DUP leader also said he would be quite content if Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was to chair any further discussions.

Asked about the former diplomat returning to Northern Ireland he joked that "there are rules against inhumane treatment".

Speaking ahead of Monday's debate, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: "To embed peace in Northern Ireland a meaningful prosperity process, creating well-paid jobs, curtailing youth unemployment and halting emigration, is a necessity.

"Civic society, who contributed so much to the Haass process, deserve prosperity.

"The first crucial step on that path is the commitment of the five parties to implement the Haass/O'Sullivan proposals."

Alliance amendment

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle proposed an amendment to the motion, calling for the urgent implementation of the Haass proposals on the past, while a time-limited, independently-chaired mechanism should be used to reach agreement between the parties on the outstanding issues on parades and flags.

"The Alliance Party would like to see the implementation of the Haass document, but we reserve the right to give the public our honest assessment of what progress has been made in each of the three issues," he said.

"We believe that the final package fell short of what this process was mandated to achieve. It also failed to meet the hopes and aspirations that the public invested in this process."

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