Northern Ireland Secretary took
the brief. In his memoirs, Whitelaw ( 1989 : 78)
observed: ‘Of course, with his clear and logical brain, Reggie
Maudling found the Irish mentality almost impossible to
understand.’ And after the power-sharing initiative had failed,
the CPRS report mentioned in Chapter 2 argued that
‘the hatred between the communities’ was such that there was
In 1974 power-sharing governance
had a consociationalist inflection, though the coalition was not
‘grand’ and the mutual vetoes were implicit. Yet its failure
was paradoxically to lead to the ultimate adoption in 1998 of a more
robustly consociationalist scheme, with the Executive Committee
‘inclusive’ and communal designation undergirding the
The collapse of power-sharing
The electorate’s endorsement of the anti-Sunningdale UUUC at the February general election and the high level of bombings and shootings by the
PIRA undermined the moderate political parties in Northern Ireland.
During the first three months of the Labour government Merlyn Rees tried
to bolster the Northern Ireland Executive while conducting a reappraisal
of security policy in line with Labour’s criticisms in opposition. After the
Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC) strike in May 1974 led to the collapse of
power-sharing, both Rees
Powersharing and the Irish
dimension: the conundrum for the
SDLP in Northern Ireland
Seamus Mallon, then deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour
Party (SDLP) famously remarked in 1998 that the Good Friday Agreement
was ‘Sunningdale for slow learners’. With this comment, Mallon was reinforcing a teleological narrative of the SDLP’s history and contribution to nationalism in Northern Ireland: that the central tenets of the SDLP’s founding
philosophy – powersharing with the provision of an Irish dimension – had
been vindicated. Writing
From direct rule to power-sharing, 1972–74
The formation of the power-sharing executive was the result of protracted
political discussion and constitutional planning. The careful negotiation of
the executive was the culmination of a series of political initiatives, designed
by the British government, following the prorogation of the Stormont parliament. These initiatives were intended to foster an accommodation between
nationalist and unionist parties. The ultimate aim was to restore to Northern
Ireland a radically different form of devolved government, which
by people who would
never have contemplated joining the IRA, the use of torture and what was euphemistically
called ‘interrogation in depth’. All of that led to the emergence of very
significant hostility on the part of the nationalist community towards Britain.
When you first met British
people and when you first met the unionists what was their attitude towards you? Where they
hostile or did they recognise there had to be negotiations to try and achieve
First of all, I did not meet any
This book analyses the British government’s Northern Ireland policy between 1972 and 1975, the complex interactions between Northern Ireland political parties in the creation of a power-sharing agreement, and the importance of the British-Irish diplomatic relationship to the attempts at managing the Northern Ireland conflict during this period. Focusing on the rise and fall of the power-sharing Executive and the Sunningdale Agreement, the book challenges a number of persistent myths, including those concerning the role of the Irish government in the Northern Ireland conflict and the British government’s secret contingency plans authored in response to the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of May 1974. It contests the notion that years 1972 to1975 represent a ‘lost peace process’, but demonstrates that the policies established during this period provided the template for Northern Ireland’s current, on-going peace settlement. Drawing on a range of recently released archival and contemporary sources, the book will be essential reading for scholars and students interested in contemporary Irish history and politics and the Northern Ireland conflict.
This second of two volumes on the Irish Government’s role in forging the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and implementing the political power-sharing mechanisms and institutions that followed provides the most expansive account yet of the peace process from the Irish perspective. Drawing from extended interviews with key officials and political leaders, this volume details the challenges faced in managing the peace process to reach agreement, before working to oversee the establishment and implementation of the institutions that resulted from agreement. The interviews in this volume address key areas such a building relationships, trust, confidence, strategic management, pragmatism, engaging militant protagonists and meeting the challenges of leadership, to create a definitive picture of the issues faced by the Irish Government in the attempt to end conflict in Northern Ireland.
Gerry Fitt was a key political figure in Northern Ireland for over twenty years, yet there is no major historical evaluation of his contribution, nor of his legacy or place in the memory of the minority community there. Drawing on unpublished party and private papers, recently released Irish and British government papers, and interviews, this book is the first academic study of the role of Gerry Fitt in the politics of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and will examine the first decade of the party through the lens of his leadership. Fitt was a driving force behind the original vision of the party and played a central role in creating the identity of the SDLP as a ‘radical socialist party’ which provided a ‘new’ style of nationalism, by prioritising socio-economic issues over the constitutional question. Yet, Fitt noted that he was often in an ‘unhappy minority of one’ over many issues and at times the relationship between himself and his party colleagues was ‘very uneasy’. This book, therefore, sheds new light on the formation of the SDLP, examining the reasons and processes through which the party was formed and the often conflicting policies and sense of political identity that the party portrayed throughout the 1970s. Contrary to the official narrative of the party, this book presents an alternative and more nuanced view of the machinations which moulded party policy in its first decade. This book is essential reading for students and scholars of modern Irish and British politics and the Northern Ireland conflict. It will also appeal to those interested in conflict resolution in divided societies.
Northern Ireland is no longer the relentless headline-maker in the global media it once was, when multiple killings and bombings provided a daily diet of depressing news and images. This book commences with a review of the literature on essentialism and then in the three domains: what has come to be known as 'identity politics'; the nature of nationalism; and power-sharing models for divided societies. It draws out implications for key aspects of the Northern Ireland problem. The book is based on secondary sources on Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H). A key resource is the independent journalistic network in the Balkans responsible for the production of Balkan Insight, successor to the Balkan Crisis Report, a regular e-mail newsletter. The book explores how policy-makers in London and Dublin, unenlightened by the benefit of hindsight, grappled with the unfamiliar crisis that exploded in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. It shows that a taken-for-granted communalism has had very negative effects on societies recently driven by ethnic conflict. The book argues that conflicts such as that in Northern Ireland can only be adequately understood within a broader and more complex philosophical frame, freed of the appealing simplifications of essentialism. More than a decade on from the Belfast agreement, the sectarian 'force field' of antagonism in Northern Ireland remained as strong as ever. Unionism and nationalism may be antagonistic but as individual affiliations 'Britishness' and 'Irishness', still less Protestantism and Catholicism, need not be antagonistic.