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The Search For A Settlement In The 1970's and 80's - Northern Ireland

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Introduction

The Search For A Settlement In The 1970's and 80's By Suzie Keevil 11N 1) The first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under Direct Rule was William Whitelaw. He gathered representatives from then Nationalist and Unionist parties to a conference in Sunningdale, Berkshire. He tried to reassure Unionists that Northern Ireland would remain a part of the United Kingdom, as long as the majority of the Northern Irish people wanted this. He hoped to appease the Nationalists by giving them some control over major decisions in Northern Ireland and allowing the Republic of Ireland a small say in the running of the country. Following weeks of tense discussions, the 'Sunningdale Agreement was signed on the 9th December 1973. The terms of the agreement were as follows: ~ A Northern Ireland 'power sharing executive' would allow major decisions to be decided by both the Nationalists and the Unionists. This gave both a say in how the country was run ~ Representatives from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland formed a Council of Ireland. They would meet regularly to discuss any issues of concern and to agree on appropriate action. ...read more.

Middle

On 1st of March 1976 all newly convicted paramilitaries lost their 'special category status'. This meant that they were no longer classified as political prisoners, but as ordinary criminals. This change in status meant that the new IRA prisoners were no longer permitted to wear their own clothes, refuse prison work or associate freely within their prison block. In addition, visiting rights and parcels became restricted. Against the wishes of its leadership, IRA prisoners began to refuse to wear prison clothing and instead only wore their prison issue blanket. By 1978, some 300 IRA prisoners began a 'no-wash' protest that meant that prisoners refused to wash, shave, brush teeth or empty their slop buckets each morning. It was at this point that prisoners embarked on the most unpleasant stage of the campaign with the 'dirty protest'. IRA prisoners daubed their own excrement on their prison walls in a strategy that successfully attracted world wide horror and ultimately sympathy. The prison authorities responded with forced showers, shaves and haircuts and the cells were disinfected. The IRA went further by embarking on a murder campaign against the prison warders that resulted in the deaths of 19 warders between 1976 and 1980. ...read more.

Conclusion

~ The Irish government accepted the legitimacy of the State of Northern Ireland- but only as long as its people consented to it. ~ The British government accepted the possibility of a united Ireland- but only if the majority consented to such a change. The agreement was generally welcomed in the Irish Republic, the British mainland and in the USA. However, reactions the in Northern Ireland were very mixed. Of all the political parties, only moderate Nationalists like the SDLP and the Alliance Party, which appealed to both Catholics and Protestants, showed their approval of the Agreement. Sinn Fein condemned the Agreement because it effectively accepted the partition of Ireland. b) The Agreement failed to bring about lasting peace in Northern Ireland for several reasons. Whilst the Anglo - Irish Agreement was a first significant step in the peace process, it did not end al the troubles that arose. The Dublin and London governments became increasingly divided and publicly critical of each other. London became frustrated with Dublin's refusal to extradite wanted IRA suspects, and privately wanted more co-operation in join anti- terrorist operations. The Dublin government continually criticized Britain for apparent miscarriages of justice involving those accused of outrages, as occurred after the Birmingham and Guildford bombings in particular. ...read more.

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