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Richard Haass is flanked by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and First Minister Peter Robinson. Photo by: newsletter.co.uk

Pressure grows on British, US and Irish governments over new North plan

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Richard Haass is flanked by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and First Minister Peter Robinson. Photo by: newsletter.co.uk

US negotiator Dr. Richard Haass has said he is still hopeful his peace plan proposals will be adopted in Northern Ireland as Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams called for greater government efforts.

“The issues of parades, flags and emblems and the legacy of the past are not going away. Significant progress was made during the Haass talks.

“There is an onus on the Irish and British governments and all of the parties to maintain the momentum that was created and to build on this progress,”  Adams said.

Haass, the former US diplomat, admitted he was disappointed at not managing to secure a consensus on a final set of proposals to deal with flags, disputed parades and the legacy of the Troubles before his end-of-year deadline.

But the bullish talks chairman insisted it was "premature to talk of failure" and urged the public to engage in a "robust debate" on his rejected deal.

He also said a working group, made up of representatives of the five parties in Stormont's power-sharing executive, would now be established to try and find a resolution to the deadlock.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister [Tanaiste] Eamon Gilmore is due to meet party leaders in Northern Ireland next week.

But Dr. Haass, who was commissioned by Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein Deputy Minister Martin McGuinness, has indicated he's optimistic for the future, since returning to the U.S. on New Year's Eve.

After stressing it was "premature to talk of failure", he proposed the "spotlight be put on parties to approve and follow up" on the plan.

He also tweeted that the text of the deal "provides a foundation for reconciliation and better future" for people in Northern Ireland.

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have welcomed the proposals, while the Alliance Party indicated it would accept the final amended deal presented by Haass and talks vice-chair, Prof Meghan O'Sullivan, last Tuesday morning.

However, the biggest stumbling blocks appear to lie with the DUP and Ulster Unionists, after both parties indicated they had major difficulties with elements of the text.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt is due to discuss the paper with his party's 120-member executive next week.

And DUP negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson indicated his party's commitment to resolving the deadlock when he spoke of the party's determination to "continuing this work beyond now in dialogue with others to try and resolve the outstanding issues that need to be addressed."

He added, "We owe that to the people of Northern Ireland, especially to the innocent victims of terrorism who have suffered so much over the decades."

The Haass process was established in July to deal with what are considered three of the main obstacles to permanent reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

But, according to the Irish Times, pressure is continuing to mount from Dublin, London and Washington for a breakthrough.

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