Northern Ireland

Haass NI proposals have merit says PM David Cameron

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Media captionDavid Cameron said US diplomat Richard Haass had done excellent work

Proposals to deal with Northern Ireland's past, parades and flags have "a lot of merit," Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

Talks chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass and Prof Meghan O'Sullivan ended on New Year's Eve without a deal.

Mr Cameron told the Commons he hoped the work carried out during the process could be taken forward.

He was responding to Alliance MP Naomi Long, who urged him to back the proposals on dealing with the past.

Mr Cameron said Dr Haass had "done some excellent work" in producing his proposals.

"I noted that Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, described them as providing the architecture for future agreement and discussion," he said.

Image caption DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds rejected remarks by Féin's Martin McGuinness

"I hope we can take the Haass work, including the very difficult work done on the past, and take that forward with all sides trying to agree."

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly said in a statement that Mr Cameron and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers needed to show "unambiguous support" for the proposals.

"The British government should also give a commitment that they will resource the implementation of the proposals," he said.

Meanwhile, DUP MP Nigel Dodds has rejected claims by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness that unionists allowed "extremists" to set their agenda in the Haass talks.

Mr Dodds told the Commons the deputy first minister's remarks were "a transparent attempt to distract from Sinn Féin's abject lack of leadership in relation to addressing their continued glorification of past terrorist crimes".

He made reference to Sinn Féin's backing of a controversial IRA commemoration at Castlederg, County Tyrone, last August, and said republicans should "stop wallowing in the filth of murder".

Ulster Unionist assembly member Tom Elliott said Mr McGuinness's "petulant" remarks were an "attempt to deflect from the dysfunctional nature" of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister "and the fact that it was he and Peter Robinson who invited Dr Haass and Prof O'Sullivan to Belfast to chair the talks".

In a statement, he said Mr McGuinness was "the last person who should be lecturing anyone about extremism".

On Tuesday, the leaders of Northern Ireland's five main parties held talks at Stormont about the Haass proposals. The parties have agreed to meet again next week.

The talks came a day after the assembly rejected a Sinn Féin motion calling for the implementation of the Haass plan.

Amendments by the UUP, the DUP and Alliance were also voted down.

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