Almost twenty-five years separate the Belfast and Sunningdale Agreements. Both represent serious attempts to heal deeply rooted divisions created primarily by the 1920 division of Ireland into two separate and distinct political units. The Sunningdale Agreement lasted barely six months, from December 1973 to May 1974, before it collapsed under a wave of Unionist-instigated strikes…
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The British government created Northern Ireland against the wishes of the majority of the Irish People who wanted a free and independent Irish republic. Though there are some counter claims, the victory of the Sinn Fein in the 1918 Irish Elections is a convincing indication of the people's strong
republican sentiments. The 1920 partition created the first great divide between Irish nationalists and Unionists and left it festering like an open wound. (NIFR, 1984). The partition did benefit the Protestants in Northern Ireland, where they assumed the role of the majority, while the Catholics became the minority in a highly sectarian society. Discrimination against Catholics over jobs, education, and housing; violations of many of their basic rights; and Protestant apprehension over nationalist organisations and activities have only widened and hardened the differences between them.
The discontent created by this situation has sparked off various protests in Northern Ireland since 1920. ...
idualhighlight all possible abuses of power demand guarantees for freedom of speech, assembly and association(and) inform the public of their lawful rights." (NICRA, 1978).
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"The civil rights movement drew a hostile response from the Protestant state, which saw it as a threat to its very existence." (Fitzduff, 2000). British troops landed on Northern Ireland soil in 1970 to deal with civil rights actions. Internment was introduced in 1971, and Catholics were incarcerated without being tried. This created widespread resentment. The IRA became increasingly active and received increasing support from Catholic communities. From 1970-1972, in a paroxysm of violence, almost 500 people were killed due to conflict that involved British troops, unionists, nationalists, and their paramilitary groups. By 1972, Home Rule by Stormont was replaced by direct rule by the British government. Something had to be done, and that something was Sunningdale.
The Sunningdale Agreement provides strong assurances to Northern Ireland Unionists that the principles of consent and majority rule will preserve their dominant position in NI society. (CAIN, Sunningdale Agreement). It states that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland will decide whether they want to remain within the UK or become part of a united Ireland. Both the Irish Republic and British government guarantee that they will respect and abide by the decision of the majority. Logically, since the NI majority are
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Protestant Unionists, we can expect Northern Ireland to remain within the UK for the foreseeable future under the agreement. Viewed from the other side, Catholic nationalists can expect little improvement in their situation since the
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