Why Was The Sunningdale Agreement A Failure

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. The agreement, signed in December 1973 at Sunningdale Park in Berkshire, England, was a power-sharing agreement between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). The Belfast agreement, which former SDLP Vice-President Seamus Mallon described as “Sunningdale for slow learners,” was at the forefront of the Belfast agreement.

Dorr, citing Mallon`s comment, who eventually became deputy prime minister under the Belfast agreement, added that all parties had learned from his failure. He says Sunningdale`s failure to bring peace was his main shortcoming. The documents show that these persistent elements of the Northern Ireland crisis – power-sharing between the two communities, membership of Irish unity, Irish dimension, Anglo-Irish cooperation, IRA violence, loyalist mobilization and electoral volatility – emerged during this turbulent year. They have been superimposed on Britain`s intense commitment to intelligence and security in Ireland. And they prompted an investigation by both governments into alternatives to the deal in the event of failure, including the option of a UK exit from Northern Ireland. After the collapse of the executive during the UWC strike in May 1974, governments faced the consequences of failure, laying the groundwork for more than two decades of direct domination. It was not until the mid-1990s that the elements born in 1974 were fully engaged. They still need to be fully implemented. On 21 November, an agreement was reached on a voluntary coalition of pro-agreement parties (contrary to the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, which defines Hondt`s method for electing ministers over the main parties in the Assembly). The distinguished members of the executive were former Unionist Prime Minister Brian Faulkner as Chief Executive, Gerry Fitt, Head of the SDLP, Deputy Director General, future Nobel Laureate and Leader of the SDLP John Hume as Trade Minister and Chairman of the Oliver Napier Alliance Party as Minister of Law and Head of the Law Reform Office.