Haass talks: Peter Robinson says draft plan 'unacceptable'

DUP leader Peter Robinson said he believed agreement was still possible

Draft proposals on flags, parades and the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland are unacceptable to the DUP, its leader Peter Robinson has said.

The five main Stormont parties have been examining the document drawn up by US diplomat Richard Haass.

Mr Robinson said there would be "steam coming out of my ears" if he thought that the draft document produced by Dr Haass was the final paper.

However, he added that he believed agreement was still possible.

While the first minister said he thought there could be progress on parades and the past, on flags things seemed to be "moving backwards".

"Nobody is throwing the towel in at this stage," he said.

"We are just saying there is not a set of proposals that we can support or agree to or recommend."

The draft document was examined by DUP party officers on Monday, but Mr Robinson said there was no point in bringing it to his assembly team as they would not endorse proposals which were "unhelpful and unworkable".

'Robust ideas'

"If I thought that was the final paper, there would be steam coming out of my ears," he told reporters.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt give their initial impressions

"But it is not the final paper and we still have work to do, and we are up to doing that work."

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said on Twitter: "Let's prevent the paint lifting off the wall, the more excitable amongst us should cool their jets!!"

Speaking earlier, SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the document had "strength and depth".

His party leader Alasdair McDonnell added: "It's very early days in that there'll be three or four days of intense debate, discussing, dissecting and deciding exactly what some of the words mean, because there's some very robust ideas and ideas that we're hopeful about.

"We have to then get to the stage where all the parties are in sync on all of these things and that will be difficult.

"We're hopeful, we want to see progress and there's room here for progress."

'Thorniest issue'

Paraphrasing Margaret Thatcher, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said things were "more out, out, out and we're a long way from in, in, in".

He added: "I don't think it'll be any secret to people that flags has emerged as the thorniest issue, that remains the case in terms of this first draft (document).

"You can expect that there are issues that are being floated perhaps that you have to accept are there today, but hopefully will not be there tomorrow.

"All things are possible if people come at it honestly with a spirit of generosity towards each other, but also determined that the outcomes are fair. I will remain optimistic until it's over."

While the parties examined the proposals at Stormont, talks chairman Dr Haass had travelled to London to meet the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Downing Street officials.

'Intense'

Dr Haass was expected to brief them on progress to date.

He will return on Tuesday for another round of talks with Northern Ireland politicians.

Dr Haass has previously said he is determined to bring the talks to a head by the end of the year.

Five rooms were set aside inside the Stormont Hotel in Belfast on Monday for the political parties to examine Dr Haass's draft document.

The parties were told not to bring in any phones or other communication devices, nor to leave with any copies of the draft.

From Wednesday, the discussions are expected to move up a gear as Dr Haass's team pushes towards an agreed conclusion.

The US diplomat returned to Northern Ireland last Monday for what he said would be an "intense two weeks of deliberations and negotiations".

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