N Ireland parties win more time to agree on deal

December 31, 2013 - 6:47:45 am

London: Northern Ireland’s five main parties have been given more time to hammer out an agreement that would deal with the legacy of unsolved Troubles crimes and lay out a plan to solve issues such as controversial parades.

Negotiations were scheduled to continue last evening with a final session expected to start about 6.30pm.

American diplomat Richard Haass (pictured) has sent the parties a sixth draft of an agreement on the contentious issues of the past, the flying of flags and marches.

On the issues of the past, the document proposes creating a trauma centre to counsel thousands of victims who suffered during the conflict.

A sticking point has been how those engaged in the conflict, particularly members of the security forces, might be compelled to give evidence about Troubles-related incidents over the past 40 years.

Sinn Fein’s key negotiator at the talks, Gerry Kelly, said he was “fairly confident” a deal could be secured. Meanwhile, Haass has described the 38-page agreement as a “remarkable opportunity to make bold choices to address the issues that hold us back”.

One of the most controversial issues has been the legacy of the past conflict in which 3,500 people died. About 3,000 of those killings remain unsolved and the Haass talks have been discussing the creation of a new police-investigative body to re-examine these cases. 

Thousands more suffered injuries and psychological trauma in three-and-a-half decades of violence.

The body that would replace the Historical Enquiries Team would have to investigate killings by the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries and a number of controversial incidents involving the security forces.

The Ulster Unionist party (UUP) has expressed concern that soldiers and police officers could be treated equally with paramilitaries in terms of being forced to give evidence, and face possible prosecutions.

The Guardian

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