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US peace envoy back in Belfast

Britain Northern Ireland
LONDON (AP) - American envoy Richard Haass returned to Belfast on Saturday for a second attempt to quell simmering disputes that have periodically erupted into violence across Northern Ireland. But his plan - details of which have not been made public - appeared to face long odds after the province's leading Protestant politician suggested some parts of the proposed deal were unacceptable.

"There's a large part of the document I could readily bring to the party. There are other elements that render the rest unworkable," said Peter Robinson, who leads Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists, the province's major Protestant-backed party.

Northern Ireland has been transformed from the days in which the Irish Republican Army grappled with the British military and Unionist militias over the fate of the province, but lingering disputes over flags, parades, and how to deal with the legacy of the conflict periodically inflame sectarian tensions.

Haass, director of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003, was called in by the province's power sharing government to help resolve the issues. Six months of negotiations were supposed to have secured an agreement before Christmas, but even though Haass' deadline passed he said he saw enough potential to return for a second try.

The disputes that Haass has been trying to bring hinge on Catholic opposition to Protestant marches - long a trigger point for Northern Ireland violence - and the contested rights of both sides to fly their preferred British and Irish flags, an argument that has recently led to street blockades and clashes with police.

Both sides are also wrestling with the question of how to honor and bring justice for the 3,700 dead from the decades of bloody conflict.

In a statement to the press ahead of the last-ditch negotiations, Haass said more time wasn't the issue, giving the parties until Monday to come to an agreement.

"At some point we have got to fish or cut bait. That time has come," he said.

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
tellroy December 29 2013 at 11:22 AM

That's ridiculous. Neither of these countries are ruled by religion. And to compare them with the countries that are ruled by fanatical Muslim extremist is even more ridiculous!

Both of these countries (Britain and Ireland) have their own democracies and their leaders are freely elected by their citizens.

The history of the current conflict goes back to the days of British rule. You'll recall that the Brits used to control most of the countries of the world - aka: The British Empire. We here in the U.S. forget that our own freedom was fought against the British when they controlled our land. (Thank God for George Washington or we would still be under their control.)

Anyway, there is a fanatical segment of British thugs (who happen to be Protestant) - they call themselves Orangemen - that gather together every year and and march through Irish territory with Orange flags to remind the citizens of Ireland (who happen to be Catholic) that the Brits still rule the land. Since the people of Ireland have lost thousands of lives through their struggle for freedom from the Brits, this yearly event by the Orangemen simply rekindles all the pain and suffering from the conflicts of both sides.

Obviously the religious aspect of this charade is secondary to the real intention of trying to flex their muscles in the face of Irish citizens in their own land.

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Michael December 29 2013 at 5:21 AM

There has been so much killing around the world , just the fighting in the middle east alone is just heart renching, but i've got to say that this fighting between the Catholics and the Protestants is the most ridiculous especially because both side believe in the same God, never mind the titles of Catholic and Protestant it only means a difference in rules to follow and really doesn't matter because in the end the real meaning is that both sides are Christians. Stop the silly fighting.

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Dorothea December 29 2013 at 4:15 AM

Why don't they just divide Northern Ireland between the Catholics and the Protestants. Give the south to the Catholics and let them become part of Ireland (if Ireland will have them) and give the north to the Protestants. And what is it about religion that turns otherwise ordinary people into monsters?

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2 replies
Anthony Dorothea December 29 2013 at 4:29 AM

Religion has been and always will be the death of all of us.

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1 reply
pscottparker10231955 Anthony December 29 2013 at 5:18 AM

You are benighted. Christianity is the MOST charitable of all of the religions, PERIOD!! Atheists, like yourself, add squat to the world except for their wonderful contribution of: 1. Hopelessness, 2. Attacks on people of faith 3. Lack of caring toward other people unless it benefits them extrinsically or materially.

Famous atheists: Hmmmm.... let's see, really nice guys like Stalin, Ghengis Khan, Pol Pot, and Hitler. Oh great. Atheism is so darn good. I just wanna become one right away!! Not to mention that they full explain where we came from: nothing!! Yeah. Tremendous. Makes sense to me.....NOT!!!

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Judi McParland Dorothea December 29 2013 at 6:34 AM

I am not sure to whom you refer as "they". The British government has no right to give anything in Ireland to anyone, since they are usurpers and always have been, Furthermore, Ireland does not have to "have them" as you put it. The north is just as much a part of Ireland as anywhere else on the island. And this conflict has nothing to do with religion. It is a political conflict and always has been. It is unfortunate that the two sides happen to be of different Christian views, but the fight is not over religion.

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TommyD December 29 2013 at 3:39 AM

I really wish they would just come to an agreement. They don't realize how fortunate they are to be a country that's predominantly of the same blood. Religeon is on the outside, their shared heritage is on the inside and forever. Wake up and let the past be the past. God Bless you all.

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1 reply
qapla5 TommyD December 29 2013 at 4:10 AM

And what "shared heritage" do you refer? The Catholics consider themselves to be IRISH living in a British-controlled region. The Protestants consider themselves to be BRITISH citizens/subjects living in a British country (country, in this case, refers to the four "large" parts of the United Kingdom--England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland--as opposed to an independent nation). Most of Northern Ireland's Protestant population are the descendants of Scottish and English emigrants to the area while the Catholic population are the descendants of the Irish natives who'd lived there for centuries before the English came along.

For the majority of Northern Irelanders, religion IS the "heritage" that is "on the inside and forever."

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Annika December 29 2013 at 3:32 AM

Just the other day I was reading about Nelson Mandela and how he is a hero to many despite the violence the ANC committed in its early days. I was reminded of the struggle in Ireland and asked myself why one man's struggle to free his nation and his people from oppression is considered heroic and received world-wide attention while the efforts of Irish people fighting for the same thing are considered terrorist acts. Fact is, Northern Ireland is still British-occupied territory, and as long as this is the case, Irish Republicans will fight for freedom from Britain. Curiously enough, no nation on this planet has ever questioned what is going on in Ireland. Then again, it's the victors who write history...

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1 reply
leavesbound Annika December 29 2013 at 3:54 AM

To paraphrase a famous quote "to the victor goes history." The United States won the American Revolution. Had the Brits won my ancestors would have been disgraced terrorists. That was on my father's side. My mother's grandfather fled Ireland in 1901. There was a warrant for his arrest for the murder of a British Army officer. This event occurred in a small village. If you looked up the history you would find that he and a small group of Irish men lured a small unit of British soldiers to a pub and ambushed them. A British lieutenant was killed and several enlisted injured. My great grandfather was the ring leader. To the British my great grandfather was a desperate criminal. To the village where he lived he was a hero. The British soldiers had just confiscated their annual harvest to feed troops. They had nothing left. They would all have died. My great grandfather and his men took back the harvest and it was hid in the homes of the people of that village. It was also as retaliation for the British soldiers shooting and maiming a little girl in that village a few months earlier. The girl was picking flowers and had strayed too close the British camp which was illegally set up on a private farm. The soldier who shot her was never disciplined and in fact was decorated for shooting the girl. Often the truth is different than the way victors tell it. In any case my great grandfather came to America, met my great grandmother and never returned to Ireland. He died in 1965. The troubles in Ireland go back a long way. It is unlikely that they will go away easily or quickly nor without further bloodshed. Emotions on both sides run deep.

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monicadwatkins December 29 2013 at 3:27 AM

The fact is we are talking about Ireland. England invaded Ireland, exploiting and enslaving the people of Ireland for many centuries, but the Irish could never really be beaten into submission and finally they won their independance in 1922. However, Michael Collins negotiated on his own to leave the six northern counties with Britain. This partitioning of the country of Ireland was tied into the partitioning of Palestine with Lord Jacob Astor's financing and the Balfour Declaration in WW1.
The protestants in the north are for the most part of Scottish and English origin and they refuse to call themselves Irish. Their history in Ireland has also been one of hatred and bullying.
There will be no peace until that country is restored to it's natural borders and all the people living in Ireland are proud to be simply irish.
As they say here in America; love it or leave it.

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1 reply
leavesbound monicadwatkins December 29 2013 at 4:14 AM

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to disengage a people from a land without committing genocide when that people have been rooted in that land so deep and so long as the loyalists have been in Northern Ireland all this time. This has been an issue for many generations going back centuries. The Israelis displaced Palestinians under the pretext that the land was originally theirs to begin with. But the Palestinians had been there for many centuries. My father's ancestors came to America 1570-1620 and displaced many indigenous peoples from La Florida to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. My family has lived in New England for nearly 400 years. It is our home. But one could argue that the surviving indigenous peoples have more of a right to it than we do yet here I remain because, after all, it is my home. My ancestors are from Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland and other places yet I have never been to any of these places much less have a right to call any of such places home. I have but one home and many of those in Northern Ireland know no other home and have not for many generations. Regardless of where their political loyalties lie, it is still, their only legitimate home. There are only two possible solutions, peace, or genocide. To a civilized world, genocide is not the acceptable choice. My mother's grandparents came from Ireland over a century ago. That makes me half Irish ethnically. But according to the Irish government's website, I am not eligible for Irish citizenship. If those Irish succeed in expelling the loyalists from Northern Ireland to Britain, that sets a precedent that would justify the indigenous peoples of New England from there back to their ancestor's homes. Would I, as a half Irish, be welcomed to live out my days in Ireland as a returnee from the Irish diaspora? Of course not! Nor would the descendants of other diaspora. This is why the only civilized choice is negotiated peace. After all, the Irish as a race has already saved civilization once, it is only natural they lead the world in civilized behavior.

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1 reply
dhumeandco leavesbound December 29 2013 at 5:02 AM

You are not half Irish, you are an American and you should be proud of it. You were born here. Who cares where your ancestors were born. YOU ARE AN AMERICAN. Be proud of it. We all need to come together as one.

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BERNIE December 29 2013 at 6:16 AM

GIVE IT A BREAK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Steven December 29 2013 at 1:27 AM

The Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland need to lectured like bad children.
Both are Christian. The Bible tells people aren't forgiven in Heaven for their sins against GOD if they can't forgive infinitely more insignificant grudges on earth. Both Protestantism and Catholicism preach forgiveness and love thy neighbor. But these mental midgets in Ireland fight in God's name ignoring his commandments and the New Testament.

What a selfish people. Right now the world is on fire with North Korea on a hair trigger of nuclear war guided by an overfed madboy with the world's worst haircut. China and Japan are at a flashpoint. South Sudan is falling apart. Thailand is approaching the end of democracy and possible civil war. Ukraine is severely stressed. Turkish people's faith in their government and institutions are also dire, and on the verge of a calamity. Things are tenuous between Iran and all of her neighbors. The Syrian governemnt routinely kills its own children. Iraq is experiencing daily explosions. So is Somalia. Somali pirates haven't stopped pirating. Pakistan is an unstable powder keg and so is Egypt. Lebanon is about to blow up into full blown civil war again. Venezuela is economically and politicallly disintigrating. Greece is still reeling for losing half their economy. The Philippines is still digging out from one of the most damaging typhoons ever. The Central African Republic is in Civil War. We are about to have the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia which is a couple kilometeres from the Ahkhazia province of Georgia, of which Abkhazia is occupied by Russia. Afghanistan is a mess and the Taliban will resume treating women like meat they own, forcing no one to laugh or dance, and take yet another 800 year dive back in time. Yemen is a tinderbox.

So why can't these well educated CHRISTIANS in Northern Ireland get their act together. The world has no more time or money to devote to your truly petty fight and deliberate provocations. Forgive and follow your GOD's dictums or cease to be Catholic or Prostestant. The World has devoted enough time and attention to Northern Ireland. Flip the switch and love your neighbord. Then the rest of the world needs you to give back by doing something to alleviate hardship and mitigate conflict in one of these other conflicts. People of Norhtern Ireland, your right to your petty conflicts has expired. Now start repaying the rest of world by showing a better example at home and doing your share of good in the world. So you can change from being a massive importer of the worlds good works to at long last start exporting good works around the world. Your other option is the worlds largest mass suicide which other governments should aid with major caches of weapons to get it over fast. We are sick of your narcissistic and childish behavior ******* more and more of the worlds peace making resources when they are direly needed elsewhere. Stop being so selfish.

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3 replies
sbgaard December 28 2013 at 11:43 PM

a distraction. why?

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Welcome King December 28 2013 at 11:43 PM

You don't hear about Northern Ireland in the news.

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