From direct rule to power-sharing, 1972–74
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This chapter examines developments in Northern Ireland politics following the introduction of direct rule by the British government in the spring of 1972.

It analyses the proposals of the region’s political parties, both nationalist and unionist, as to how the Northern Ireland should be governed.

It demonstrates how the British government forced these parties to accept a solution based on power-sharing with an Irish dimension, culminating in the Sunningdale Agreement of December 1973.

The events surrounding the formation of the power-sharing Executive are outlined in detail, and the effects of the change of government at Westminster in February 1974 on British Northern Ireland policy are explored.

Furthermore, the chapter demonstrates that the Irish government and nationalist SDLP were not united on policy throughout this period. Archival sources reveal that disagreements were frequent, and the relationship often fraught.

Template for peace

Northern Ireland 1972–75

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