Northern Ireland

Peace process: Stormont talks 'opportunity for progress'

Image caption Northern Ireland's five main parties are involved in the fresh talks

Talks aimed at finding a solution to the problems of flags, parading and the past are an opportunity for progress, according to the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The talks, involving the five main Stormont parties, begin on Wednesday.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said his party was prepared to talk "right throughout the summer".

Gregory Campbell of the Democratic Unionist Party said despite difficulties they "shall try to make progress".

Six months of the Haass negotiations last year ended with no agreement on New Year's Eve. Further talks were announced earlier this month.

Mr Kelly told the BBC's Sunday Politics that talks should have taken place before now but there was an "opportunity there".

Image caption Gerry Kelly said his party was prepared to talk "right throughout the summer"

"I think all the issues are known, we need to crunch the issues together and we need to make progress, because everybody is looking at us to do that," he said.

Mr Campbell said that progress needed to be made but that the "portents are not good" and he mentioned a number of disputed parades.

"When you have the likes of Portadown, when you have Dungiven, when you have Ardoyne, those areas are areas where small numbers of unrepresentative groups in those communities are whipping up tensions, unnecessarily so.

"Issues, parades that should be low key that should be non-contentious, there are small groups of people trying to make them contentious."

Speaking on the same programme Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party said there had to be agreement.

"This is inescapable, we have to have an agreement," he said.

Image caption Gregory Campbell said that progress needed to be made but that the "portents are not good"

"There are difficulties at present and we need leadership from all sides to back away from confrontation," he said.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Party member Tom Elliott has called for the talks to "focus on resolving contentious parades stalemate".

"We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to do all we can to ensure that we have a peaceful summer," he said in a statement.

"That is why over the next number of days we would like to deal with parading first; focusing on resolving areas where there is still deadlock, such as the 12th of July feeder parade passing by the Ardoyne shops.

"This is particularly urgent given that the issues surrounding last year's parade remain unresolved."

Earlier this week, Alliance leader David Ford had said that if no dates were confirmed, his party would call on Downing Street to convene talks with the Northern Ireland Executive parties and the Irish government.

Former US diplomat Richard Haass urged politicians in Northern Ireland to "show leadership" in dealing with outstanding peace process issues.

Last year he chaired a talks process that ultimately failed to deliver consensus on outstanding peace process disputes in Northern Ireland.

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