Northern Ireland peace talks face Monday deadline as parties meet with US envoy in Belfast
LONDON – Catholic and Protestant leaders of Northern Ireland face a Monday deadline to settle some of the lingering issues still bedeviling the province's peace process.
U.S. peace envoy Richard Haass is meeting with representatives from Northern Ireland's five main political parties in a last-ditch bid to win an agreement on contentious disputes that have periodically erupted into violence.
Catholics and Protestants have clashed over the issues of loyalist parades, a traditional Northern Ireland flashpoint, and when and where to fly British or Irish flags — a symbolic issue that has sparked repeated bouts of rioting in Belfast.
Six months of negotiations were supposed to have secured an agreement before Christmas, but though Haass' deadline passed he says he saw enough potential to return for a second try.