NI Haass talks: Political reaction

Dr Richard Haass says "significant progress" has been made

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been speaking after talks to settle differences over parades, flags and the legacy of the Troubles broke up without agreement.

Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, who chaired the talks, said a final agreement was "not there" but there had been "significant progress".

Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party MP

Jeffrey Donaldson Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would closely examine the Haass document

"All in all, progress has been made in terms of the very difficult matters that have been before us.

"I believe the broad architecture across all three areas represents progress and contains much merit.

"However, as with any negotiated document, some of the language and detail is not what we would have chosen and in some instances, we profoundly disapprove of the language.

"We entered this process to come to the right deal for the people of Northern Ireland, but not any deal. We will examine this document very closely indeed."

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin assembly member

Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly said the next few weeks would show whether agreement could be reached

"It needs political will - this was a compromise. If it had been our paper it would have been different as always in these negotiations, and pain has to be taken by everybody.

"These issues will not go away, so even if we have to come back to this, we are determined to deal with these issues.

"This was a massive opportunity, which corralled these issues into one space to try to get them sorted out.

"The next few days and weeks will tell the story from the other parties, and I would hope that their executives will be able to take a positive view of this text as a basis for agreement."

Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP leader

Alasdair McDonnell Alasdair McDonnell said significant progress had been made on the legacy of the past

"So much has been achieved in terms of the past, which is by far the biggest issue.

"I would not paint this as a failure, but as far as we're concerned the glass is half full - in fact, it's two-thirds full.

"The parties need to engage in these issues rather than duck around them.

"There has to be a will, and what I'm looking for is signals that fundamental attitudes have changed, particularly around the parading issue."

Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist Party leader

Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt said his party's executive would examine the proposals

"From our point of view, it is disappointing after six months of honest endeavour and positive engagement not to be standing here with an agreement.

"It's a text that we will be taking to our party executive in the next number of days.

"We will have an honest debate and hopefully form a final opinion at the end of that debate.

"We will take the paper to our executive, which is our policy-making body, and then we'll have a result."

David Ford, Alliance Party leader

David Ford David Ford expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on flags and parades

"On the past, there is major progress which could provide positive benefits for victims and the wider community, looking at reconciliation.

"With parades, we have dealt with structures but we have done nothing to deal with the issue of behaviour and attitudes.

"On flags, there is a complete unwillingness on the part of other parties to engage.

"We couldn't say there was any agreement on flags - what we have is a record that we didn't do anything at all about flags."

David Cameron, UK prime minister

David Cameron David Cameron said the talks had provided a basis for continuing discussions

"Although it is disappointing the parties have not been able to reach full agreement at this stage, these talks have achieved much common ground, providing a basis for continuing discussions.

"There is a shared commitment to making progress on these very difficult issues that continue to be a focus for tension and division across the community.

"I urge the parties to keep going. I also want to thank Dr Richard Haass and his team for their dedicated work.

"The government and the Northern Ireland parties will continue to work together to strengthen further the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland."

Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland Secretary

Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers said the parties should maintain the momentum created by their efforts

"It's obviously disappointing that these talks haven't so far led to an agreement, but these are immensely difficult issues.

"And I think all the parties that have commented so far have said that there is much in the Haass proposals on the table that they can support.

"I don't think this is the end of the road - it's important that it's not.

"It's important that we build on the progress that's been made, which actually resulted in a great deal of common ground between five political parties which have fundamentally different views on some of these issues."

Eamon Gilmore, Irish deputy prime minister

Eamon Gilmore Eamon Gilmore said he was disappointed that the parties had not reached an agreement

"I am disappointed that agreement was not reached by all the parties this morning in Belfast. I know that many people will be disappointed when this news reaches them.

"This is not a step back but rather a step not yet taken. That step forward will have to be taken because it is right and necessary and because people across society are demanding it.

"I recognise that significant progress has been made over a short period on the most difficult and contentious issues that face society in Northern Ireland.

"The progress that has been made must now be safeguarded and built upon."

John McCallister, NI21 deputy leader

John McCallister John McCallister said the five parties involved in the discussions had failed to show leadership

"Martin McGuinness said at the weekend that failure would be an 'embarrassment for politicians, for the process, and would clearly show a lack of leadership qualities' - I completely agree with him.

"The fact that the Haass talks were organised as a reaction to heightened tensions always concerned me.

"Such sensitive issues should not be discussed as acts of barter or as in a peace negotiation; these issues should have been agreed as reasoned acts of government.

"Most people in Northern Ireland have been enjoying Christmas and ignoring this situation; politicians in Northern Ireland are in a bad place with disengagement growing and the Haass talks have undoubtedly made matters worse."

Steven Agnew, Green Party leader

Steven Agnew Steven Agnew said there was an unwillingness to find common ground

"It appears that for some, the outdated mind-set of serving 'their communities' has been a block to meaningful progress.

"This is the same failure of political leadership and unwillingness to find common ground which is played out within the assembly structure on a daily basis, and it is the people of Northern Ireland who repeatedly lose out.

"The failure of this important initiative shows that we must continue to work hard to create a lasting peace for the common good.

"People care about flags, parades and dealing with the past - but they also care about health, education, welfare reform and the other practical matters that impact on their lives."

Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice leader

Jim Allister Jim Allister said the talks process had left a 'toxic legacy'

"The DUP may now spin about standing tough in negotiations but the reality is that the party has publicly voiced support for 'limited immunity' which is an amnesty by another name and has consistently failed to the make the key issues which concern innocent victims the centrepiece of these talks.

"And, let it be remembered that it was Peter Robinson, along with his buddy in government, McGuinness, who gave us Haass.

"Haass may be gone but he has left a toxic legacy, which the powers that be will seek to advance by every nefarious means.

"Vigilance must be our watchword."

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