After stalling over the central issue of tie colour, talks aimed at solving some of Northern Ireland’s most contentious issues have re-started The five main parties will discuss parades, flags, dealing with the past and the colour of ties.
Talks chairman, former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, is back in Belfast “for one final effort to help these clowns reach agreement.”
Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, thinks some elements of the earlier proposals were unworkable. Speaking after a church service on Sunday, where he had heard a moving sermon on tolerance and forgiveness, the leader of the DUP was typically trenchant: “Before we can even start to have meaningful talks, we MUST agree what colour ties the various parties should wear. Preferably orange but we’d settle for red, white and blue as a festive goodwill gesture.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, from Sinn Féin, said: “I think that for Richard Haass to leave here without an agreement would be a terrible embarrassment for politicians, for the process, and would clearly show a lack of leadership on the very difficult challenges presented by ties in the 21st century. We’re prepared to compromise by accepting some orange but only if used with white and green; a tricolour if you will.”
Even if the parties reach agreement on ties there is much else to grapple with. Protestants in Ulster are reluctant to forego marching up and down roads, to commemorate their ancestors giving the ancestors of the residents of the roads a right-royal arse-kicking in 1690.
Robinson explained why the marches are now more important than ever. “We Protestants have found it progressively harder to discriminate against Catholics in education, housing and education and employment, so we need something to remind them of their rightful place in society i.e. at the bottom. Apart from the colour of ties, there’s very little that makes the case so clearly as a noisy pipe and drum band, all dressed in dayglo orange, walking past your front door, together with a ‘Roaring Paisley’.
Not all is doom and gloom however. All parties are at least in agreement over one matter; that civilisation itself is dependant on the right to hang a piece of cloth of the appropriate colour on a stick and then salute it.