independent

Saturday 23 August 2014

We'll see benefits if North finds way to move forward

Published 08/01/2014 | 05:20

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Richard Haass.

Will Richard Haass ever return to Northern Ireland?

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I am not a betting man, but I wouldn't mind wagering a small bet that now that he has returned to the United States he would be reluctant to return to Belfast, having seen his efforts to finalise a deal over Christmas and the new year between the political parties in Northern Ireland fall short.

The contentious issues of flags and parades appear to the stumbling blocks, with the unionists unwilling to accept the proposals put forward.

The Downing Street Declaration was in December 1993, the first IRA ceasefire was 20 years ago in 1994, the Good Friday Agreement was signed at Easter 1998 followed by the referendum votes either side of the border, then there was the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006, followed by the Weston Park Agreement in April 2012 – and still it seems impossible to get the unionists and republicans to agree a way forward and to way to consign the past to history.

The issues in the North are complex and sensitive and no one is under any illusion that there are easy solutions to move forward, but the politicians must exercise more authority in exercising their self determination for the better of their people.

The SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have been punished by the voters for their roles in advancing the peace process in the early stages, and a cynic might suggest that both Sinn Féin and the DUP don't wish a similar pounding should they yield to their polar opposite. But how else is society to move forward?

Why should we here in the South care? Well, in Dundalk, we are as close to Belfast as we are Dublin, the Falls and Shankill Roads are a lot closer to us than we are to Cork, Waterford, Limerick or Galway. If Northern Ireland could move beyond tribalism and sectarianism the spin offs in their economy and tourism could wash this way.

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