Why Did Unionists Oppose The Sunningdale Agreement

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA), on which Northern Ireland`s current system of decentralisation is based, is very similar to the Sunningdale Agreement. [5] Irish politician Séamus Mallon, who participated in the negotiations, described the deal as “Sunningdale for slow learners.” This claim has been criticized by political scientists such as Richard Wilford and Stefan Wolff. The first said that “he.. significant differences between them [Sunningdale and Belfast], both in terms of the content and circumstances of their negotiations, implementation and functioning`. [6] Sunday, December 9, 1973 A communiqué was issued announcing that an agreement had been reached at the Sunningdale Talks; this communiqué should be known as the Sunningdale Agreement. Another event that became a bee in the hood of the Unionists in the summer of 1972 was the revelation that Northern Ireland`s Foreign Secretary, William Whitelaw, had held political talks with high-ranking members of the Provisional IRA. Although no deal was reached, the talks, widely criticized in many quarters, once again attracted unionist paranoia, “fueling their traditional fear that Britain could betray them.” [4] It cannot be denied that the above-mentioned events of 1972 contributed greatly to the increase in membership and violent attacks by loyalist paramilitary organizations and were involved in the Strike of the United Loyalist Council led by William Craig in February 1973, whose main purpose was to “restore some kind of Protestant or Loyalist control over provincial affairs.” [5] It was finally agreed that the Council`s executive functions would be limited to “aspects related to tourism, nature conservation and animal health”, but this did not reassure the unionists, who saw in any influence of the Republic on northern affairs a further step towards a united Ireland. They saw their fears confirmed when SDLP adviser Hugh Logue publicly described the Council of Ireland in a speech at Trinity College Dublin as “the vehicle that would lead unionists to a united Ireland”. [4] On December 10, the day after the agreement was announced, loyalist paramilitaries formed the Ulster Army Council – a coalition of loyalist paramilitary groups, including the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, that would oppose the agreement. It also rejected the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, which proposed the creation of an Irish Cross-Border Council to oversee a limited range of economic and cultural affairs in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The agreement led to a criling general strike by Protestant trade unionists in 1974 – the DUP. A glimmer of hope was provided by the Sunningdale Agreement, named after the English city where it was negotiated in 1973. .