'Tolerance needed' in NI talks
Published 08/11/2013 | 16:11
Tolerance and understanding are needed to make progress in all-party negotiations dealing with contentious issues in Northern Ireland, the country's first minister has said.
Peter Robinson expressed optimism about talks chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass around flag-flying, parades and the legacy of the past conflict.
The Government also expressed its support for the process, which is due to culminate in recommendations by the end of the year.
Mr Robinson said Dr Haass had a significant task.
"The agreement has to be an agreement reached by the parties in Northern Ireland," he said.
"Very real and tangible progress can be made. I don't expect him to resolve and have cut and dried all of the issues involved.
"It is possible to make progress based on the principles of respect, tolerance and understanding."
Ex-White House envoy to Northern Ireland Dr Haass has said recent consultations with Stormont's main parties and the British and Irish governments had made him optimistic that the talks could deliver a positive outcome.
Mr Robinson attended a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council of politicians from administrations in the Republic and Northern Ireland in Armagh today.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "There is a huge responsibility on all of us to recognise that we have as much to do with the resolution that will come out of this as Richard Haass has.
"Our responsibility over the next while is to ensure that there is real engagement taking place around the issues of flags and parades and recognising that the past is certainly the most challenging of the three; but I do believe that progress can be made contingent on there being a will amongst the political parties to find a way forward."
He said they had to take the ground from those who opposed the peace process.
"I am determined to face up to the challenges."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was for the parties in Northern Ireland to resolve the issues under discussion.
"There is nothing that cannot be done if there is a will and understanding and we face a future where we are all going to have to work together."
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Eamon Gilmore said Dr Haass cannot work miracles.
"It really does have to be dealt with here and if it is there is a very big prize."