Who Opposed 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. Faulkner found this very difficult fact to sell to anti-Sunningdale unionists, because they believed that the symbolism of the Council`s existence relayed all the real forces it had to exert. The importance of the way the Council has been loyé can be understood by their suspicions about the motivations of both the British and Irish governments. In the latter case, the controversy over Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which confirmed on paper the Irish government`s claim to the six counties as a “national territory”[11] dominated the controversy and the Unionists saw it as a direct attack on the status of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, with opponents of Sunningdale being horrified by the fact that the members of faulknerite agreeed with the unionists. Don Anderson notes how problematic the compromise process has been in Northern Ireland politics, that it has connotations of betrayal in Ireland, particularly among Northern Ireland loyalists, instead of the British method of using compromises as an important negotiating tool. [12] Sunningdale was by no means the first or last example of the prevalence of this attitude, the Unionists` aversion to compromise going back to the question of the rule of the house at the beginning of the 20th century. … Heide, which resulted in the Sunningdale agreement.

This agreement recognised that Northern Ireland`s relations with Great Britain could not be changed without the agreement of a majority of its population and provided for the creation of a Council of Ireland composed of members of both … 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). Another event that, in the summer of 1972, became a bee on the Unionist hood, was the revelation that Northern Ireland`s Foreign Minister, William Whitelaw, had had political discussions with senior officials of the Provisional IRA. Although no agreement was reached, the discussions, widely criticized in many quarters, again attracted the paranoia of the Unionists “which fuelled their traditional fear that Britain would betray them”. [4] It is undeniable that the aforementioned events of 1972 contributed significantly to the increase in membership and violent attacks by loyalist paramilitary organizations and participated in the strike of the United Loyalist Council, led by William Craig, in February 1973, whose main objective was to “restore some sort of Protestant or loyalist control over provincial affairs”. [5] On the way to a discussion of the terms agreed by the parties present at Sunningdale, there was a plethora of clauses in the agreement that fuelled mistrust in the Unionist camp, as Gordon Gillespie describes it: “The agreement seemed to be facing its most difficult challenge, to win the support of the unionists, whose first reaction was prudent at best.” [8] Prudent is perhaps too soft a term to isolate the caution with which the Unionists approached Sunningdale, with negotiations on the Irish dimension, to become, as Don Anderson says, “the scraping of fish in the sewers for the Unionists, even many faulkner unionists”. [9] The Council of Ireland, the resulting Irish Dimension Negotiation Group, was reportedly the most controversial point of the four-day conference.