Editorial - standing on our own feet

Earlier this year commentators, columnists and panellists went to great lengths to explain how far the North has moved forward in the 15 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

While there is no doubt that we have indeed made great leaps and that the political landscape of the North has been wholly transformed, every so often we are reminded of the distance we still have to travel.

The arrival in the North this week of the US envoy Dr Richard Haass on a fact-finding mission before he begins his work to find a way through the controversial issues of parading and flags is one such reminder.

In the run-up to the 1998 agreement, and in the many crises which followed it in the early days of the new institutions at Stormont, the international community played an invaluable role in helping broker solutions to our problems.

However, the fact that we again need to call in outside assistance calls the pace of progress into question.

A new report will be written and its findings studied and, no doubt, debated.

At this stage it would not be unreasonable to have assumed that the Assembly could have completed such a process itself. Doubtless any report on these issues will recommend greater cross-community dialogue, something which has been repeatedly called for already.

Sadly the events in Stormont this week when the leaders of unionism provided political cover to the Orange Order and loyalists rioting in the streets, does nothing to encourage such dialogue.

The intervention of international figures, however valuable, will not solve our problems while there is no agreement on what the problems or the solutions are. That is something we need to do ourselves.