Sunningdale Agreement Notes

On Sunday, December 9, 1973, a communiqué announced the agreement at the Sunningdale talks; this release should be known as the Sunningdale Agreement. In March 1974, trade union supporters withdrew their support for the agreement and asked the Republic of Ireland to repeal Articles 2 and 3 of its Constitution (these articles would not be revised until after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement). The Sunningdale Agreement was an attempt to create a Northern Ireland executive and a cross-border council of Ireland. Signed on December 12, 1973 at Sunningdale Park in Sunningdale, Berkshire. [1] The Unionist opposition, violence and a general loyalist strike led to the failure of the agreement in May 1974. On December 9, a press release was issued announcing the agreement, which was later announced as the Sunningdale Agreement. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 provided for an Irish Council, but these provisions had never been adopted. The Unionists were furious at any « interference » by the Republic of Ireland in its newly created region. In 1973, following an agreement on the formation of an executive, an agreement was reached on the reintroduction of an Irish Council to promote cooperation with the Republic of Ireland. Between 6 and 9 December, discussions took place in the town of Sunningdale in Berkshire between British Prime Minister Edward Heath, Irish Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave and the three pro-agreement parties. In January 1974, the Ulster Unionist Party narrowly voted against further participation in the assembly and Faulkner resigned as leader to be replaced by the anti-Sunningdale Harry West. Parliamentary elections were held the following month. The Ulster Unionists formed the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) as a coalition of anti-union unionists with the Progressive Union Vanguard Party and the Democratic Unionist Party to field a single anti-Sunningdale candidate in each constituency.

The pro-Sunningdale parties, the SDLP, the Alliance, the Labour Party of Northern Ireland and the Pro Assembly Unionists, made up of Faulkner`s supporters, disagreed and clashed. When the results were de-reported, UUUC won 11 of the twelve constituencies, some of which were won by split votes. Only West Belfast has returned a pro-Sunningdale MP (Gerry Fitt). UUUC has declared that this is a democratic rejection of the Sunningdale Assembly and executive and has tried to bring it down by all means. On Monday, 8 April 1974, Merlyn Rees, then Sate Minister for Northern Ireland, met with representatives of the Ulster Workers` Council (UWC). The meeting did not reach an agreement. [At this stage, the UWC was not considered a serious threat to the future of the executive, mainly because of the failure of previous work stoppages of the Loyalist Workers Association (LAW) and the apparent low support for protests against the Sunningdale agreement.] The 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA), on which the current system of decentralisation in Northern Ireland is based, is similar to that of Sunningdale. [5] Irish politician Séamus Mallon, who participated in the negotiations, called the agreement « Sunningdale for slow learners. »

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