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Why Did The Sunningdale Agreement Fail Essay

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The Sunningdale Agreement was a first attempt to bring peace to Northern Ireland by encouraging compromise and forming a power-sharing government in the six counties. Sunningdale failed because of loyalist opposition, but his ideas informed nearly 25 years later of the Good Friday Agreement, which was more conclusive. After a lively debate, the representatives of the Unionists finally recognized the formation of an Irish Council. The parties to the negotiations signed the final agreement on 9 December. These issues were resolved, 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 power shared by nationalists and unionists, and a “Council of Ireland” composed of delegates from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. On 4 January 1974, four weeks after the signing of the agreement, the Ulster Unionist Council voted by 427 votes to 374 against the new Council of Ireland. This forced Faulkner to resign as head of the UUP, although he retained his position as executive chief. On 8 March 1973, the British government conducted its controversial border inquiry, a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or meet Ireland. Catholics boycotted the referendum, leading to a 98% victory for “Remain”. With the economy in jeopardy and the Loyalists not ready to compromise, Faulkner and his coalition council resigned on May 27. This marked the death of the Sunningdale Agreement and the first attempt at power-sharing when Northern Ireland regained power under the British government. Many believed that a compromise solution would put an end to the unrest.

If Catholics and nationalists were better represented in government, they argued, support for the Provisional IRA would decline. The origins of the Sunningdale Agreement date back to October 1972, with the development of a Green Paper (Reflection Paper) by Northern Ireland`s Foreign Minister William Whitelaw. Under the title “The Future of Northern Ireland,” Whitelaw described the problems of the six counties and some proposals for solutions. The Sunningdale Agreement has sounded the alarm in Northern Ireland, particularly in loyalist circles. Many were outraged that Faulkner, Sunningdale`s chief unionist negotiator, accepted the Irish Council but failed to enforce his own demands (formal recognition of Northern Ireland by Dublin, severe crackdown on IRA suspects in the Republic and new security measures). On 4 January 1974, four weeks after the signing of the agreement, the Ulster Unionist Council voted by 427 votes to 374 against the new Council of Ireland. This forced Faulkner to resign as head of the UUP, although he retained his position as executive chief. After a lively debate, the representatives of the Unionists finally recognized the formation of an Irish Council. The parties to the negotiations signed the final agreement on 9 December. 5. When the Council of Ireland was formalised in the last Sunningdale Agreement, signed in December 1973, the Loyalists responded by dividing the UUP, disrupting the assembly and organising a general strike.

Sunningdale failed when the executive resigned in May 1973. The 1973 White Paper also called for the creation of the Council of Ireland, a bilateral committee made up of representatives from Belfast and Dublin.

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