sunningdale for slow learners


Tonge, The New Northern Irish Politics?, p. 47. This is of course a brilliant play on the famous words of SDLP legend Seamus Mallon who described the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as Sunningdale for slow learners. The Real Slow Learners (by Danny Morrison, Andersonstown News) It was Seamus Mallon who famously once described the Belfast Agreement as 'Sunningdale for Slow Learners', a soundbite which was immediately seized upon by opponents and critics of the Republican Movement. It can be argued that the GFA broadly vindicates the thinking of Hume, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and revisionist Irish nationalism. HMSO, The Belfast Agreement: An Agreement Reached at the Multi-Party Talks on Northern Ireland [The Good Friday Agreement] (London: HMSO, 1998), Cmnd 3883, Constitutional Issues, Article 1(vi). 10 '1974 - Year of Liberty'? (38) (11) This is true, but they have endorsed a settlement quite different to that which partitioned Ireland. Accordingly, it had no intention of disarming in advance of a political deal. 303–4. Unionist opposition, violence and a loyalist general strike caused the collapse of the agreement in May 1974. (39) (p.180) From Sunningdale to the Good Friday Agreement: Creating Devolved Government in Northern Ireland. ‘The political language of John Hume’, p. 15; Girvin ‘Constitutional nationalism in Northern Ireland’, p. 43; O'Brien, Memoir, p. 423. It should be noted that that the GFA won support amongst a slim but, in terms of its legitimacy, vital majority of unionists in the referendum in Northern Ireland; Bew and Gillespie, Northern Ireland: A Chronology, p. 395. Thus, the election of a ‘greener’ Irish government also encouraged republicans to reconsider their position. Accordingly, nationalists had a veto over the way that unionist self-determination was expressed, and unionists had veto over the way that nationalist self-determination was expressed. Bew and Gillespie, Northern Ireland: A Chronology, p. 395. The success of the Irish peace process in 1998 (often dubbed Sunningdale for slow learners!) A multi-disciplinary team, working in close liaison with the class teacher. The link was not copied. On the face of it, these shifts led to the rise of more ‘extreme’ parties in each communal bloc. But, in the GFA, nationalists in both parts of Ireland have consented to partition. On this, see the following section. (p.188) who had questioned the wisdom of Hume's engagement with the republicans,47 and who feared that it would eventually lead to the scenario which now unfolded, with Sinn Féin displacing the SDLP as the leaders of the nationalist community. Seamus Mallon once famously described the Good Friday Agreement as "Sunningdale for slow learners", in reference to the very similar agreement in 1973 which sought to end the N. Ireland conflict but which was sabotaged by unionists. Ibid., pp. With this concept, Hume attempted to square the circle between Irish nationalism and Ulster unionism – to allow both traditions, in both parts of Ireland, to exercise their right to self-determination. xiv, 209, 211, 212. Moreover, it is clear that Hume intended this approach to reassure unionists of his party's continued commitment to the principle of consent. The Agreement had three parts — an elected Northern Ireland Assembly, a power-sharing cross-community Northern Ireland Executive and a cross-border Council of Ireland. (p.176) Indeed, in the Agreement, the London government accepted that people in Northern Ireland had the right to claim Irish rather than British citizenship, or indeed to hold dual citizenship.37 This was essentially a symbolic gesture, as southern Irish law has always allowed those born in Northern Ireland to claim an Irish passport.38 However, by affirming this right, the British government formally acknowledged the duality of identity in the region. Another crucial difference between Sunningdale and the GFA is that the latter directly addressed the issue of national self-determination. Sinn Féin's recent success is undoubtedly a consequence of extremely effective political leadership, and tremendous organisation and effort amongst the party's rank and file. In addition, the GFA created new political structures linking Britain and Ireland, these to counterbalance the Irish dimension of the Agreement. Interestingly, one of Hume's closest party colleagues, Seán Farren, also described the redefining of self-determination in an Irish context as a movement towards ‘co-determination’; see S. Farren and B. Mulvihill, ‘Beyond self-determination towards co-determination in Ireland’, Études Irlandaises, 21:1 (1996). Until 1998, nationalist Ireland had never accepted the partition of the country. It provided a commitment to further reform to achieve full social and economic equality in Northern Ireland, and also promised to fulfil the demands that had first led John Hume into political action in the civil rights era. Instead, they are the longstanding objectives of the reformist northern nationalism. However, interestingly, it was Hume who first suggested such a scheme at the time of the Sunningdale Agreement, arguing that its use would remove the claim to legitimacy which republicans took from the 1918 general election – the last occasion when the whole of Ireland voted as one,12 and when the original Sinn Féin party had won a landslide victory. 244 ff. (15) (p.187) D. Trimble, ‘At long last Dublin recognises British territorial sovereignty’, Irish Times, 18 May 1998. As a result, they had to find a means to achieve Hume's notion of ‘agreed self-determination’. Of course, the precise contents of the Agreement were a product of bargain and compromise between the Northern Ireland parties, and the British and Irish governments.5 But the basic shape of the settlement clearly owed much to the thinking of Hume and the SDLP. As such, it can be argued that the GFA broadly vindicates the thinking of Hume, the SDLP, and revisionist Irish nationalism. Your current browser may not support copying via this button. 319–22; Mallie and McKittrick, Endgame, pp. As Brendan O'Duffy explains, when London and Dublin first adopted this mechanism in the DSD, ‘the citizens of the Irish Republic were being given a veto on unionists’ preferences for self-determination (currently, inter alia further integration into the United Kingdom; independence; and majoritarian devolution)’.24 Indeed, unionists could not expect southern Irish voters to endorse these preferences, which offered little to nothing for northern nationalists. Until 1998, nationalist Ireland had never accepted the partition of the country. By endorsing this principle in the GFA, the vast majority of nationalist Ireland has accepted that Irish unity can only be achieved by winning the agreement of a majority in Northern Ireland. The GFA has also won, for the first time, the assent of Irish nationalists for political institutions across the island the Ireland. Both had a right to self-determination, but neither had an absolute right – that is a right to override the wishes of the other. On this, see Murray, John Hume and the SDLP, ch. In so doing, the GFA held an obvious but crucial advantage over its predecessor: it followed a formal cessation of hostilities, and looked to build political structures that would cement this peace. (5) Clearly, they would not vote for a set of institutions which were predetermined towards the creation of a united Ireland. For a more detailed account of the troubled implementation of the GFA, and an explanation of the issues relating to this, see Dixon, Northern Ireland, ch. However, beyond the republican constituency, others have questioned whether the 1998 referenda can really be viewed as an exercise in Irish self-determination. Allow me to … Firstly, in May 1997, Tony Blair led the Labour Party to a landslide victory in the British general election. Part I: Tracing the status of contesting sovereigns, 1968–1974’. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been described as ‘Sunningdale for slow learners’, in that it uses many of the ideas originating in that 1973 agreement. This left the SDLP facing an electoral battle with a younger, more dynamic, extremely well-organised, and increasingly well-funded opponent. The nature of this system will normally be decided by political elites, but if they hope to gain the assent of their would-be citizenry, they will devise a constitution that is likely to win acceptance among all significant sections of the population. Indeed, even the 1920–21 settlement, though it was accepted by the people of the 26 counties under threat of war from the British government,42 was certainly not endorsed by the northern minority. A fully inclusive approach In addition, it was felt that Unionist MPs were using the issue to exploit the situation at Westminster, where John Major held onto power with an ever-diminishing majority. As a result, the SDLP suggested that any new agreement should be presented to voters in Northern Ireland, but also – to increase its democratic legitimacy – the electorate in the South of Ireland: In particular, and arguably more important than the new North-South structures which the Agreement created, is the continuing role which it allows for Dublin in the governance of Northern Ireland. In doing so, he focused particularly on the proposed changes to the Irish constitution. Part II: Playing for a draw 1985–1999’. However, whilst the SDLP may have lost the electoral battle, the party certainly won the ideological war. In the DSD itself, there was no explicit reference to the idea of dual-referenda, but the crucial paragraph on Irish self-determination suggested that any new agreement would have to secure popular consent in both parts of Ireland.17 Thus, in effect, the British government accepted Hume's dual-referenda mechanism as the means by which any new institutions would be endorsed, and so it was in May 1998 that the GFA was put to the electorate in both parts of Ireland. SDLP, Proposals for Government in Northern Ireland: Report to Parliament (Belfast: SDLP, 1975), XII. 312–13. (48) Other articles where Sunningdale Agreement is discussed: Anglo-Irish Agreement: The road to the Anglo-Irish Agreement: …Heath that resulted in the Sunningdale Agreement. Bew and Gillespie, Northern Ireland: A Chronology, p. 343. But, even then, the British government seemed more likely to maintain its former strategy of negotiating with political moderates and marginalising the extremes. Indeed, directly after his first public talks with Sinn Féin, in a newspaper interview with the former chief executive of the UUP, Frank Miller, Hume was eager to make this point: ‘I am saying that I accept, before we start [negotiations on a possible replacement for the AIA], that any outcome of that must have the agreement of both [nationalists and unionists] and that in order to assure them of that, before they go to that [talks] table, they should devise a mechanism to ensure that the people on each side have a means of expressing their view on whatever agreement is reached.’ Asked directly by Miller whether this meant that any agreement would have to be ratified on both sides of the border, Hume was unequiocal: ‘That's precisely what I am proposing.’31 Thereafter, he continued to P. Mitchell, B. O'Leary and G. Evans, ‘Flanking extremists bite the moderates and emerge in their clothes’. They would acquiesce in, if not openly accept, the 1998 enactment of Irish self-determination. legitimacy of the dual-referenda mechanism as a device for the exercise of Irish self-determination. Friday's vote was for the implementation of the agreement and that means the creation of democratic institutions which will be shared by all sections of our people.20. Tonge, The New Northern Irish Politics?, p. 47. These include the right to social and economic equality within Northern Ireland; a role for nationalists in the governance of the state; the creation of law and order arrangements which reflect the religious balance in the region, and which ensure impartial treatment of all; recognition of The late Seamus Mallon famously described the Good Friday Agreement as 'Sunningdale for slow learners.' By the time of the Good Friday Agreement, equality for the oppressed Catholic people of Northern Ireland had advanced far beyond what had been achieved by the time of the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974. (55) The GFA has also won, for the first time, the assent of Irish nationalists for political institutions across the island the Ireland. For example, see P. Bew, ‘The unionists have won, they just don't know it’, Sunday Times, 17 May 1998; and D. Trimble, ‘At long last Dublin recognises British territorial sovereignty’. Hence the 1998 referendum was not an exercise in Irish self-determination, but rather a limited device for partial codetermination.22. Even with a spirited fight-back by the new party leader, Mark Durkan, in the Westminster election of 2005, there remained considerable doubts about the political future of the SDLP. The Good Friday Agreement, Decommissioning Section, Article 3. In this, it was clear that Dublin had retained the role which it had held since 1985, as mouthpiece of the minority's grievances, and the guardian of its vital interests. renegotiate the GFA, the DUP has now accepted constitutional arrangements which were brokered by the UUP. Most notable was the British-Irish Council, which would include representatives from the London and Dublin governments, but also from the new devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Sunningdale did not succeed in its immediate objective of achieving peace, and there were still difficulties at times in Anglo-Irish relations. Seamus Mallon’s death less than two weeks ago meant his chastening analysis of the Belfast Peace Agreement as “Sunningdale for slow learners” was recalled. The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was based on effectively the same formula as the Sunningdale Agreement – power sharing and an Irish dimension – and was more comprehensive than Sunningdale in the assurances that it offered to unionists. Your current browser may not support copying via this button. However, his dual-referendum formula also meant that unionists would have to offer a settlement which could win the support of the southern Irish electorate, thus providing an effective guarantee for northern nationalists.