Richard Haass says 'no issues are deal-breakers'

Richard Haass (left) meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in Dublin Richard Haass met Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in Dublin

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Issues like the Maze peace centre are not deal-breakers in talks on flags, parading and dealing with the past, its chairman Richard Haass has said.

The US diplomat was speaking in Dublin after a series of engagements including a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Dr Haass said he was conducting the talks as an "open process".

He said dissident republicans were operating outside of the legitimate political process.

In response to a spate of letter bomb attacks on prominent figures in Northern Ireland, he said there was "no justification for violence".

Engagements undertaken by Dr Haass in Dublin included a working lunch with Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and discussions with the Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the 15 Years On peace group.

'Open-minded'

Asked about the extent the controversy over the peace centre at the former Maze prison had featured in the talks, Mr Haass said it would continue to figure in the conversations about addressing the past "in a manner that not only deals with the past, but also contributes to the quality of the present and the future".

"I'm open-minded about the specifics but we're not beginning with a clean slate - we'll look at ways we can take that into account and then move forward," he said.

He added: "I don't believe in words like deal-breakers.

"This is a complex process, it's not a traditional negotiation where it's all or nothing."

Start Quote

The goal is to succeed before the end of the year - we are committed to doing just that and I think the odds are increased because of the support we are getting”

End Quote Dr Richard Haass

Addressing the recent spate of letter bomb attacks in Northern Ireland, including one sent to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, Dr Haass said it was unacceptable.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Eamon Gilmore, he said: "We come from the world of politics, we're used to public debate, agreement and disagreement, but what makes it politics is that there are rules about how disagreements are conducted.

"There is simply no place for violence in political life."

Dr Haass was chosen by the first and deputy first ministers to chair the discussions on areas that have proven difficult for the Northern Ireland parties to resolve.

In recent weeks, Dr Haass has met Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg. He said the attitude of Westminster leaders to the talks was satisfying.

The former US envoy to Northern Ireland will meet the five Stormont executive parties for a further round of talks on Friday.

Dr Haass said the talks process had been given "extraordinary support" from the British and Irish governments, and had received about 150 submissions from interested groups.

"The goal is to succeed before the end of the year - we are committed to doing just that and I think the odds are increased because of the support we are getting," he said.

He added: "The interest is deep and wide in building on the Good Friday Agreement and the progress of the last 15 years.

"There's a real sense that there's both an opportunity and a necessity to further institutionalise the progress in Northern Ireland, and we're committed to doing just that."

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