“There is a duty on political parties to seize the opportunity presented by the Haass talks or risk condemning future generations to division and uncertainty. I really welcomed the opportunity to hear from Dr Richard Haass at today’s Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee. Political leaders must grasp the nettle and take the unique opportunity presented by the Haass talks to move this society forward.
“In coming to these negotiations we must be mindful of what sort of society we want to see emerging. In that society people will have the right to fly flags in the right circumstances and people will have the right to parade where dialogue has taken place. However in that society people will also accept that with such rights come responsibilities.
“In that society the pain of victims will not be buried but will be addressed by a meaningful truth and reconciliation process. In that society we won’t see insensitive parades that commemorate or glorify violence or paramilitarism.
“There needs to be a genuine commitment on the part of all political parties to be prepared to give and take so our society can move to a better future. We can no longer be trapped in the straitjacket of our past. The SDLP are ambitious for the Haass talks and with that political will we can reach a solution that will see a much more stable society emerge.
“We also need to see a rule-book for flags and parades resulting from the Haass talks and political parties should step up to the plate and contribute to that. If they fail to do so we could tolerate Dr Haass imposing his own solutions. However, I sincerely hope that leaders here can do all they can to ensure they write this particular rule-book.”