24/06/2014

Ford Calls For Talk Dates To Be Finalised

David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party, has said Northern Ireland's political parties must finalise a date this week for talks on flags, parades and the past.

In 2013, six months of negotiations between Northern Ireland's five main political parties, former US diplomat Richard Haass and Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan ended on New Year's Eve without agreement. Sinn Féin and the SDLP were in support of the proposals drawn up, but the DUP, UUP and Alliance Party said more needed to be done before an agreement could be reached. Earlier this month, it was announced that further "intensive meetings" would be held during June, but these have yet to take place.

Mr Ford has now issued an ultimatum to the other political parties, saying that if they do not finalise a date for the talks, the Alliance Party will ask the British Government to step in to convene the talks.

In a statement, he said: "Given the threat to community relations from another summer of unrest, it is scandalous that the First and deputy First Ministers have left these issues sitting on the shelf. If they will not organise these all-party talks that they promised three weeks ago, then the British Government must take the responsibility of doing so.

"Six months of leaders meetings have achieved nothing. This cannot go on indefinitely. The legacy of the past, disputes over parades and the row over flags, hurt our political system on a daily basis and prevent us from reaching an agreed way forward."

(JP/MH)

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