Sunningdale, the Ulster Workers’ Council strike and the struggle for democracy in Northern Ireland

The ‘Sunningdale experiment’ of 1973-74 witnessed the first attempt at establishing peace in Northern Ireland based on power-sharing. However, its provisions, particularly the cross-border ‘Council of Ireland’, proved to be a step too far. The experiment floundered amidst ongoing paramilitary-led violence and collapsed in May 1974 as a result of the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike. Yet, many of the ideas first articulated in this period would resonate in later attempts to cultivate peace and foster a democratic. This collection asks what became of those ideas and what lessons can we learn looking back on Sunningdale over forty years hence.

Drawing on a range of new scholarship from some of the key political historians working on the period, this book presents a series of reflections on how key protagonists struggled with ideas concerning ‘power-sharing’ and an ‘Irish dimension’ and how those struggles inhibited a deepening of democracy and the ending of violence for so long. The book will be essential reading for any student of the Northern Irish conflict and for readers with a general interest in the contemporary history of British-Irish governmental relations.

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