Northern Ireland talks end in stalemate

Belfast, Dec 31: Talks between Northern Ireland’s main political parties on key peace process issues to ease tensions that have led to one of the worst years of rioting in the British province for a decade have ended in a stalemate, media reported Tuesday.

The negotiations, led by former US diplomat Richard Haass, covered a range of issues from Northern Ireland’s history including unsolved murders from the Troubles, the route of loyalist parades and the flying of national flags, The Guardian reported.

“It would have been nice to come out here tonight and say we have got all five parties completely signed on to the text, but we are not there,” Haass was quoted as saying by The Independent.

The talks broke up early Tuesday but Haass said that all parties supported aspects of a proposed agreement on how to deal with the outstanding issues but a number of concerns remained.

The former US diplomat was invited by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to lead the talks. He had set a deadline of Monday for a deal to be reached.

Dozens of people were injured during weeks of rioting early this year after Belfast City Council voted to limit the number of days the Union flag is flown on City Hall.

Several bombs have been planted in Belfast in recent months by Irish militants opposed to the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that sets out a complex series of provisions, including the status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the UK and the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Fein, the largest Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland, signalled its willingness to strike a full deal. It believes the text proposed by Haass provided the basis for an agreement.