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
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
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
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