ULSTER Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has told Sinn Fein during the Haass talks in Belfast that there is “absolutely no difference” between the IRA and Al-Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Mr Elliott also compared the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and dissident republicans to the radical extremists during the “candid” discussions with US diplomat Dr Richard Haass and other parties, including Sinn Fein.

“I have told Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and we have made it clear in our submission to Haass that the terrorists who caused 9/11, the terrorists who blew up McGurk’s Bar in Belfast, the terrorists who blew up in Enniskillen and the terrorists who blew up Omagh in 1998 are all the same. The IRA, the UVF and dissident republicans are all terrorists,” Mr Elliott told The Impartial Reporter.

The Fermanagh-south Tyrone assembly member has told Mr Haass and other parties that he wants to see a ‘Historical Clarification Commission’ set up in Northern Ireland “that actually tells the facts of what happened over the Troubles.” “I have discussed this with Gerry Kelly who has a different perspective than I have on the past. I believe a commission like this, not a truth commission, would set out the facts. For example, Gerry Kelly is trying to change the definition of a terrorist, I believe, because he doesn’t think he was a terrorist. The fact is the courts convicted him of terrorism, of being a terrorist. He was convicted of bombing the Old Bailey and that makes him a terrorist. This has been discussed with him and I am not afraid to put my position on the line for it.” Mr Kelly would likely reject Mr Elliott’s description and last week during the launch of his book in Donagh, the Sinn Fein MLA told this newspaper: “I am in the Haass talks with Tom and what is that about? That we can or try to agree on the future. What we have already agreed on is that we don’t agree on our past.” Dr Haass returned to Northern Ireland this week to continue chairing talks about flags, parades and protests and dealing with the past and he tweeted that a resolution by Christmas was “do-able.” However, Mr Elliott has warned: “There is no chance of us getting this sorted by then, not at all.” “It is a painstakingly slow process. We have been on it since September and we don’t seem to be developing a huge degree of movement in getting to the crux of the matters. People need to be realistic about what is achievable.” “Look, when he talks about wanting it done, what will you get done? The fact is you may get some headline issues around it, you may get some position around it, you may get some tentative agreements around it. But to have the whole issues of the past, parades and protests and flags sorted by Christmas, come on, does anyone believe that is going to happen? I want to move towards a resolution but everybody needs to be realistic and right now people are talking this process up,” he said.