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Haass failure ‘disappointing’

10 January 2014

PA

THE Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, has described as "deeply disappointing" the failure of the political parties in Northern Ireland to agree on proposals put forward by the United States envoy Dr Richard Haass to resolve contentious issues surrounding flags, parades, and dealing with the past, all of which are regarded as destabilising influences on the fragile peace in the province.

Dr Haass and his colleague Professor Meghan O'Sullivan had returned to the North after Christmas for one last attempt to gain agreement between the parties; but, after the rejection, led by the Unionists, of a seventh and final draft, he departed for the US on New Year's Eve, urging the general public to engage in a robust debate on the issues.

After the rejection, Dr Clarke expressed hope that the work progressed so far would stimulate further initiatives.

"Although deeply disappointed, as so many must be, that full agreement between the five political parties of Northern Ireland on the Haass proposals has not been reached at this juncture, we still hope for future rapprochement. We are truly grateful to the huge efforts put in by Dr Richard Haass, Professor Meghan O'Sullivan, and their team. We continue to pray that their careful groundwork will indeed come to valuable fruition in the future," he said.

"One of the most powerful biblical concepts that we can reflect on today is the word 'forbearance'. It is not the same as patience, although it is clearly associated with it. Forbearance essentially means not demanding everything we believe we could legitimately, or even reasonably demand of another person; it is a 'holding back' of ourselves in a spirit of generosity.

"It describes God's dealings with humankind, and it is what God therefore demands of us in our dealings with one another. A spirit of forbearance within us all is assuredly a prerequisite to a good and wholesome future in 2014 for Northern Ireland."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Seán Brady, expressed gratitude for the work of the American diplomats. "We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to consider carefully their propos-als, and work to secure a lasting solution. It is because they appreciate the value of peace that so much hard work has been done."

All the political parties are in agreement that the process is not over, and that much progress had been made. The Irish, British, and US governments have indicated that they will continue to urge the political leaders in Northern Ireland to find a solution.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, told the House of Commons that the failure to reach an agreement was "disappointing . . . it is clear that some of the parties have genuine concerns about aspects of what is in the final document."

She said, however, that "the clear message from the Prime Minister, from me and from the Irish Government is that this should not be seen as the end of the road. . . The momentum now needs to be maintained. I believe that Northern Ireland's political leadership should lose no time in seeking a way forward that gets the parties back around the table to try to resolve their outstanding differences."

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