The Sunningdale Agreement Summary

The Sunningdale Agreement was an attempt to create a Northern Ireland executive and a cross-border council of Ireland. Signed on December 12, 1973 at Sunningdale Park in Sunningdale, Berkshire. [1] The Unionist opposition, violence and a general loyalist strike led to the failure of the agreement in May 1974. The Northern Ireland Assembly Bill, which came out of the White Paper, was introduced on 3 May 1973 and elections were held on 28 June for the new Assembly. The agreement was supported by the Social Democratic and Labour Nationalist Party (SDLP), the trade union UUP and the Alliance Intercommunal Party. Supporters of the deal won a clear majority of seats (52 to 26), but a significant minority in the Ulster Unionist Party rejected the deal. However, there have been serious problems for the executive. There have been many disagreements between the parties in the Assembly and the role of the Irish Council has not been clearly highlighted. In addition, terrorist activities were ongoing in Northern Ireland and, although the police were controlled from London, the Northern Ireland Executive was held responsible. Anti-power unionists were outraged to see the Republic of Northern Ireland have a say and called for the agreement to be abolished. In the March 1974 general election, the anti-Sunningdale parties won 11 of the 12 Westminster seats. Chief Executive Gerry Fitt said people had not yet understood Sunningdale, referring to opinion polls that still had a majority in favour of the agreement on both sides of the community.

Despite the election results, neither the Sunningdale agreement nor the executive was changed. In the meantime, anti-Sunni-Ngdale unionists understood that democratic means would not lead them to call for the abolition of the agreement. In 1974, loyalist paramilitary groups and many anti-Sunningdale politicians joined the small Ulster Workers` Council. The Council has begun to organize measures against the government. They warned the Assembly that they would stage a strike if they refused to abolish the Sunningdale Agreement. On 14 May 1974, the Assembly voted to ignore the UWC`s request and a general strike was declared. Known as the General Workers` Strike, it has been the worst economic event in Northern Ireland in recent years.