3. co-operation. The similarities between the Sunningdale

3.    Sunningdale Agreement and UWC strikeIn June 1973, following the publication of a British White Paper and a referendum in March on the status of Northern Ireland, a new parliamentary body, the Northern Ireland Assembly, was established. Elections to this were held on 28 June. In October 1973, mainstream nationalist and unionist parties, along with the British and Irish governments, negotiated the Sunningdale Agreement, which was intended to produce a political settlement within Northern Ireland, but with a so-called “Irish dimension” involving the Republic. The agreement provided for “power-sharing” – the creation of an executive containing both unionists and nationalists—and a “Council of Ireland” – a body made up of ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic, designed to encourage cross-border co-operation. The similarities between the Sunningdale Agreement and the Belfast Agreement of 1998 has led some commentators to characterise the latter as “Sunningdale for slow learners”.113 This assertion has been criticised by political scientists one of whom stated that “..there are… significant differences between them Sunningdale and Belfast, both in terms of content and the circumstances surrounding their negotiation, implementation, and operation”.4. Proposal of an independent Northern IrelandWilson had secretly met with the IRA in 1971 while leader of the opposition; his government in late 1974 and early 1975 again met with the IRA to negotiate a ceasefire. During the meetings the parties discussed the possibility of British withdrawal from an independent Northern Ireland. The failure of Sunningdale led to the serious consideration in London until November 1975 of independence. Had the withdrawal occurred —which Wilson supported but others, including James Callaghan, opposed – the region would have become a separate Dominion of the British CommonwealthThe British negotiations with an illegal organisation angered the Irish government. It did not know their proceedings but feared that the British were considering abandoning Northern Ireland. Foreign Minister Garret FitzGerald discussed in a memorandum of June 1975 the possibilities of orderly withdrawal and independence, repartition of the island or a collapse of Northern Ireland into civil war and anarchy. The memorandum preferred a negotiated independence as the best of the three “worst case scenarios”, but concluded that the Irish government could do little.The Irish government had already failed to prevent the IRA from burning down the British Embassy in 1972. It believed that it could not enlarge the country’s small army of 12,500 men without negative consequences. A civil war in Northern Ireland would cause many deaths there and severe consequences for the Republic, as the public would demand that it intervene to protect nationalists. FitzGerald warned Callaghan that the failure to intervene, despite Ireland’s inability to do so, would “threaten democratic government in the Republic”, which in turn jeopardised British and European security against Communist and other foreign nations.The Irish government so dreaded the consequences of an independent Northern Ireland that FitzGerald refused to ask the British not to withdraw—as he feared that openly discussing the issue could permit the British to proceed—and other members of government opposed the Irish Cabinet even discussing what FitzGerald referred to as a “doomsday scenario”. He wrote in 2006 that “Neither then nor since has public opinion in Ireland realised how close to disaster our whole island came during the last two years of Harold Wilson’s premiership.