The Sunningdale Agreement

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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. On Sunday, December 9, 1973, a communiqué announced the agreement at the Sunningdale talks; this release should be known as the Sunningdale Agreement. 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 December 9, a press release was issued announcing the agreement, which was later announced as the Sunningdale Agreement. In the General Elections of February 1974, the United Ulster Unionist Council, a coalition of anti-Sunningdale unionists, won 11 out of 12 constituencies in Northern Ireland. Only West Belfast has returned a pro-agreement MP. In signing the agreement, the Irish Government fully accepted and stated that the status of Northern Ireland could not change until the majority of the northern population wished to change that status. The Sunningdale Agreement, named after the English town where it was negotiated in 1973, gave a glimmer of hope.

This agreement resulted in the creation of a new assembly in Northern Ireland,… 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.] I think it is quite historic that these people have come together and reached an agreement which I believe will frankly open a new dawn not only for Northern Ireland, but also for the whole of Ireland. 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. 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.

The other members of the executive were the Unionist Basil McIvor as Minister of Education, Unionist Herbert Kirk as Minister of Finance, Austin Currie, SDLP member, Minister of Housing, Unionist Leslie Morrell as Minister of Agriculture, Paddy Devlin, SDLP member, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Unionist Royist Bradford as Minister of the Environment and Unionist John Baxter as Minister of Information. [3] This new executive, made up of the aforementioned members, took office and had its very first meeting on 1 January 1974. [3] The UUP was deeply divided: its standing committee voted by 132 votes to 105 in favour of participation in the executive.