McGuinness claim comes as DUP admits briefing flag protester
DUP negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson briefed controversial loyalist Willie Frazer during the Haass talks on flags, parades and the past. The Lagan Valley MP confirmed to The Irish News that he discussed Richard Haass’s draft proposals with the high-profile flag protester as the end-of-year deadline approached.
However, Mr Donaldson said he did not speak to fellow loyalist Jamie Bryson and that nobody from the party had contact with him. Orange Order representative Mervyn Gibson, who was part of the DUP’s negotiating team, also insisted that he spoke to neither Mr Bryson nor Mr Frazer, who faces a series of charges connected to Union flag protests last year. Similar charges against Mr Bryson were dropped in November. The DUP has yet to give its verdict on Dr Haass’s seventh and final draft proposals. Senior party offices are expected to meet within days. Mr Bryson, Mr Frazer and fellow flag protester Jim Dowson were present at the Stormont Hotel talks venue during the days leading up to Dr Haass’s deadline. An outspoken critic of republicanism, Mr Frazer was a founding member of the Protestant Coalition party last year and made headlines in 2012 last year after confusing an Italian flag at a Co Tyrone primary school for an Irish tricolour during an online rant. It was reported on Monday that Mr Bryson also claims to have been shown Haass proposals by unionists as they sought to gauge loyalist opinion. However, the Ulster Unionists have also dismissed suggestions that they had contact with Mr Bryson – or Mr Frazer. “I know absolutely nothing about this claim,” UUP negotiator and former party leader Tom Elliot said. Mr Donaldson said it was a “matter for the parties” to decide who to consult with. He insisted that at no point did he share any draft documents with a third party. “Any discussions we had were of a verbal nature,” he said. “We would have had discussions about the issues contained in this Haass document.” Mr Donaldson said Mr Frazer did not have an effective veto on any of the document’s contents and that made its decision not to sign up to the deal” on the basis of its own assessment”. He said the negotiating team had heard the views of interest groups. On Monday night the UUP said the Haass propasals are “not viable and not acceptable” after a meeting of its executive. Party leader Mike Nesbitt said it was up to the first and deputy first ministers to “clear up the obvious mess that has been created” from the process they had initated. Shame Fein’s Martin McGuiness on Monday claimed that elements of the Orange Order and extreme loyalism were setting the parties agenda.
‘Adopting negotiating strategy which is driven by these negative elements is a huge mistake – Martin McGuinness.
The final Haass proposals were published on Monday in an abridged format on the Panel of Parties website. The full 40-page document has been available on the NI Executive website for the past week. “As political leaders we have a responsibility to all citizans to deliver,” Mr McGuinness said. “I have concern that the agenda for both unionist parties is being set not by this requirement but by the needs and demands of the Orange Order.” The Mid Ulster MLA said “elements of the Orange Order and extreme loyalism” did not wish to see agreement and that they were hostile to the idea of a shared future. “Adopting a negotiating strategy which is driven by these negative elements is a huge mistake,” he said. Mr McGuinness called for “political leadership” and said the vast majority of people in the north wanted to see progress. He said negotiations had concluded and that the only purpose in establishing an all-party working group wa to “ensure the implementation of the document as it stands”. An Orange Order spokesman said it had engaged positively with the Haass process and outlined its position through face-to-face meetings and separate submissions on parading, flags and emblems and the past. He said the issues discussed in the document were difficult to resolve and the order hoped a “fair and balanced resolution” could be found. “Despite losing 337 of our members as a result of terrorism, predominantly through violence orchestrated by the PIRA, we remain committed to playing our part in making the North of Ireland a better place for everyone,” the spokesman said. “In return, all we ask for is respect and tolerance for our culture and traditions.” The order spokesman said the deputy first ministers remarks were a “shabby attempt to deflect attention away from his own murky past”. “Mr McGuinness would be better served to come forward and tell the truth, for the sake of all innocent victims and the justice they deserve, regarding the heinous crimes inflicted by republicans,” he said. On Monday Dr Haass published the ‘fact sheet’ on his proposals. “The draft agreement would leave the people of the North of Ireland considerably better off than they are today by tackling the difficult issues that continue to divide society,” he said.
Conflict legacy proposals set out
(Very rare footage of Gerry Adams in 1969-1970 who claims he was never a member of the PIRA)
ARGUABLY the most complex issue facing the North of Ireland has been how it deals with the legacy of a 30-year-conflict, with competing narratives of what happened and victims demanding truth and justice after more than 3,000 unsolved murders.