What Was the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 and Why Did It Fail

Sunday, December 9, 1973 A communiqué was issued announcing that an agreement had been reached at the Sunningdale talks; this communiqué should be known as the Sunningdale Agreement. The Northern Ireland Assembly Bill, resulting from the White Paper, entered into force on 3 May 1973 and elections for the new Assembly were held on 28 June. The agreement was supported by the nationalist Social Democratic and Workers` Party (SDLP), the Unionist UUP and the Inter-Community Alliance Party. The pro-deal parties won a clear majority of seats (52 to 26), but a significant minority in the Ulster Unionist Party opposed the deal. Dorr cites mallon`s commentary “Slow Learners,” who eventually became deputy prime minister under the Belfast Agreement, adding that all parties have learned from his failure. The 1973 White Paper also called for the formation of the Council of Ireland, a bilateral committee composed of representatives from Belfast and Dublin. It was eventually agreed that the Council`s executive functions would be limited to “aspects related to tourism, nature conservation and animal health”, but this did not reassure unionists, who saw any influence of the Republic on northern affairs as another step towards a united Ireland. They saw their fears confirmed when SDLP councillor Hugh Logue publicly described the Council of Ireland in a speech at Trinity College Dublin as “the vehicle that would lead trade unionists into a united Ireland”. [4] On December 10, the day after the agreement was announced, loyalist paramilitaries formed the Ulster Army Council – a coalition of loyalist paramilitary groups, including the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, that would oppose the agreement. Tuesday, October 23, 1973 The Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) voted by 132 votes to 105 in favor of a policy that would allow UUP members to participate in a future power-sharing executive. [While Brian Faulkner, then leader of the UUP, expressed public joy at the result, the rarity of victory was an indication of deep divisions within the UUP.] However, there were serious problems for the executive. There were many differences of opinion between the parties in the Assembly and the role of the Irish Council was not clarified.

In addition, terrorist activities were ongoing in Northern Ireland and, although the police were checked from London, the Northern Irish executive was blamed. Anti-power-sharing trade unionists were outraged that the Republic had a say in Northern Ireland and demanded that the deal be dropped. In the March 1974 general election, the anti-Sunningdale parties won 11 of Westminster`s 12 seats. Chief Executive Gerry Fitt said people had not yet understood Sunningdale, pointing to opinion polls that still showed majority support for the deal from both sides of the community. Despite the election results, no changes were made to the Sunningdale Accord or to the executive branch. On Friday 5 October 1973, William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, chairs a series of talks at Stormont Castle in Belfast on the question of the formation of an executive to form an executive to the Government of Northern Ireland. Representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Northern Ireland Alliance Party (APNI) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) attended the talks. The parties disagreed on the issues of internment, policing and Irish counsel, but were able to make progress in other, less controversial social and economic areas. [See also: 9 October 1973; 16 October 1973] It was followed in March 1973 by a policy paper entitled “Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals”. This document contained several more concrete proposals. A new Northern Ireland assembly would be elected to replace the old Stormont Parliament.

Elections would use proportional representation, undermine unionist gerrymanders and give nationalists a better voice in government. After his election, the Assembly would negotiate the formation of an executive that would share power. 3. In June 1973, a new Northern Ireland Assembly was elected. As a result, an executive was created to share power, in the form of a coalition cabinet of the UUP-SDLP alliance. The Sunningdale Agreement was a first attempt to create peace in Northern Ireland by promoting compromise and forming a government to share power in the six counties. Sunningdale failed because of shrill loyalist opposition, but his ideas shaped the more successful Good Friday Agreement nearly 25 years later. Thursday 6 – Sunday 9 December 1973 Sunningdale Agreement The Staff College of the Civil Service in Sunningdale, England, hosted a conference to try to resolve the remaining difficulties in setting up the executive to share power for Northern Ireland. Sunningdale was the first time since 1925 that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and the Northern Irish Government – in the form of the (designated) Northern Ireland Executive – participated in the same talks on the future of Northern Ireland. Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, and Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach, and senior ministers were present alongside representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Northern Ireland Alliance Party (APNI). Participants discussed a number of issues, but the main area of concern focused on the unresolved issue of the “Irish dimension” of a future Northern Ireland government. Proposals for this `Irish dimension` should finally be approved in the form of an Irish Council proposal.

The proposed Council was to be composed of a Council of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly. The Council of Ministers was to be composed of seven members of the Northern Ireland Executive and seven members of the Irish Government. This Council would have executive and harmonization functions as well as an advisory function. The Consultative Assembly was to be composed of 30 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the same number of members from the Dáil. This assembly should have advisory and review functions. [A press release was issued on December 9, 1973.] On December 9, a statement was issued announcing the agreement, which later became known as the Sunningdale Agreement. 5. When the Irish Council was formalised in the final Sunningdale Agreement signed in December 1973, the loyalists reacted by dividing the UUP, disrupting the assembly and organising a general strike. Sunningdale failed when the executive resigned in May 1973. In March 1974, pro-agreement trade unionists withdrew their support for the agreement, calling on the Republic of Ireland to first delete Articles 2 and 3 of its Constitution (these articles would only be revised after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement). These problems were solved, at least in theory, by the Sunningdale agreement. This agreement, signed in December 1973, created three political bodies: a proportionally elected Northern Ireland Assembly, an executive government with nationalists and unionists divided by nationalists and unionists, and a “Council of Ireland” composed of delegates from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

On the 21st. In November, an agreement was reached on a voluntary coalition of pro-accord parties (contrary to the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, which establishes the d`Hondt method for electing ministers in proportion to the main parties in the assembly). Prominent members of the executive included former Unionist Prime Minister Brian Faulkner as executive director, SDLP chairman Gerry Fitt as deputy executive director, future Nobel laureate and SDLP leader John Hume as trade minister, and Alliance Party chairman Oliver Napier as legal secretary and head of the Law Reform Bureau. The other members of the executive were unionist Basil McIvor as Minister of Education, Unionist Herbert Kirk as Minister of Finance, Austin Currie, member of the SDLP as Minister of Housing, Unionist Leslie Morrell as Minister of Agriculture, Paddy Devlin, member of the SDLP, as Minister of Health and Social Services, trade unionist Roy Bradford as Environment Minister and Unionist John Baxter as Information Minister. [3] This new executive, composed of the above-mentioned members, took office and held its very first meeting on January 1, 1974. [3] The UUP was deeply divided: its Standing Committee voted by a majority of 132 votes to 105 to participate in the executive. . . .