July 30, 2013—Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has agreed to chair talks intended to tackle some of the most divisive issues affecting Northern Ireland. The "All-Party Panel" negotiations—to take place among the five parties represented in the Northern Ireland Executive—will address sensitive issues and disputes, including parades and protests; flags, symbols, and emblems; and related matters stemming from the past in order to make the peace more resilient going forward. The Panel is to present a set of recommendations supported by all the parties before the end of this year.
"I welcome this opportunity to again work with the people and political leadership of Northern Ireland," said Haass, who recently returned from meetings with party leaders in Belfast. "Much has been accomplished over the past decade and a half. The goal is to build on and both broaden and deepen these accomplishments." The CFR president served as the lead U.S. government official in support of the Northern Ireland peace process from 2001 to 2003, during which time he also served as director of policy planning at the State Department.
Haass was the first choice of the five main political parties to serve as the independent chair of the All-Party Panel process. "We are deeply grateful that an international figure of Dr. Haass's standing has agreed to facilitate these important discussions, which we hope will provide long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of the community," read the official statement from First Minister Peter D. Robinson MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA.
Meghan L. O'Sullivan will join Haass as vice-chair of the All-Party Panel. O'Sullivan served as Haass's chief adviser on Northern Ireland during his tenure as special envoy and went on to serve as deputy national security adviser. She is currently the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School and an adjunct senior fellow at CFR.