Haass document 'not balanced' says Peter Robinson

Richard Haass said accepting the deal was not a close call

Unionists need to reach agreement on parades, flags and the past with nationalists, not Richard Haass, DUP leader Peter Robinson has said.

Dr Haass, who chaired months of talks, said the two unionist parties and Alliance should justify their decisions not to fully endorse his proposals.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has said it was "make your mind up time".

However, Mr Robinson said the document was not balanced and needed more work.

"It says an awful lot if the two nationalist parties are jumping up and down ready to sign up to a deal but no unionist is prepared to go with it," said Northern Ireland's first minister.

"That indicates that it wasn't a balanced final output, but there are many elements of the Haass proposals that are acceptable.

The three key issues

The past - more than 3,500 people died in the Troubles, and in almost 3,300 cases no-one was prosecuted. Reaching agreement on how to investigate these killings and what to do about other people affected by the Troubles has so far proved impossible

Flags - this issue was highlighted last year when Belfast City Council's decision to fly the union flag from city hall and other council buildings only on 18 designated days sparked street protests

Parades - though many are not contentious, some unionist parades that pass through or close to nationalist areas have been controversial. A small number of nationalist parades have also proved contentious in the past

"We accept the broad architecture that's laid down there but some of the detail needs to be resolved."

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have endorsed the proposals, but the DUP, UUP and Alliance have so far rejected elements of the Haass blueprint.

Mr Robinson added: "The job of Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein or Alasdair McDonnell and the SDLP is not to reach an agreement with Richard Haass, it's to reach an agreement with unionists.

"We're the ones that they're going to be left with when Richard Haass is quite happily back in New York.

"Let's roll up our sleeves, look at the outstanding issues and try and get an agreement that all parties, rather than just the nationalist parties, can sign up to."

Mr Robinson was responding to remarks made by Dr Haass in an interview with the BBC on Thursday, in which he said the parties who did not back his draft proposals must "defend their positions".

"Why three in particular were not prepared to endorse this agreement that quite honestly, I and we feel, gave them more than enough to go out and defend it, not to just the general public but to their own particular constituencies," he said.

Speaking on Friday, Mr McGuinness said Dr Haass and co-chair Prof Meghan O'Sullivan had done a "fantastic job".

Peter Robinson said some of the detail in the Haass document needed to be resolved

"I think it's naïve of people to think that Richard Haass was going to come in and, in the context of there not being total agreement on the three issues, that he was not going to issue his verdict on the negotiations he was part of and on the people who participated in that," he said.

The deputy first minister said he did not "intend to get involved in the blame game", but it was now a time for all parties to show leadership.

"I think that parties who have not yet come on board ignore at their peril the fact that the world is looking at us, the US administration is looking at us and more importantly, our own electorate is looking at us for leadership," he said.

"Am I happy with everything that's in the paper? No I am not but I am prepared to go with it."

Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore said he believed that the five parties should endorse the proposals contained in the Haass document.

"It is a very good document, it is a robust document and it addresses in a very comprehensive way all three of the areas that the inter-party group were asked to address," he said.

"What we have to do is concentrate on the implementation of that agreement."

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