October 15, 2021 by eklose
Elections would use proportional representation, undermine unionist gerrymanders and give nationalists a better voice in government. After his election, the Assembly would negotiate the formation of a power-sharing executive. I believe that the loyalist opposition to what was to become the Irish Council was not totally unfounded and was born out of sheer paranoia. The main argument in support of this proposal stems from the UK Government`s amendment to the powers the Council would be supposed to exercise, with Paul Dixon describing how it is moving from “certain executive functions and an advisory role” to “executive and harmonisation functions”. The Council of Ireland could be interpreted as having the measure of a purely Irish parliament.  This is an important point in understanding the psyche of the anti-Sunningdale unionists, as they saw the rapid change of position as a microcosm of how the British government in Northern Ireland might want to wash its hands in the long run, and their fear of becoming a demographic minority in a united Irish state has always been imminent. Dixon presents the interpretation that “power-sharing has collapsed because of the Irish dimension.”  He argues that Faulkner and his divided party were exploited by the British and Irish governments to incorporate unpleasant terms into the agreement, implying that “the Irish government did not deliver its share of the regulation and, therefore, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was unable to sell the package to the Unionist community.”  Before we get into the various Sunningdale clauses that have been the subject of a loyalist review, it is important to provide context for the events that led to the end of 1973 and fueled the flames of Unionist discontent. The first of these was the collapse of the Northern Ireland Parliament in March 1972 and the subsequent imposition of direct government from London by the Conservative government, which, according to Paul Dixon, “caused unease among loyalists who feared that their position within the Union would be undermined.”  Direct rule had paralyzed half a century of monolithic Unionist control in Northern Ireland, and its introduction had serious implications for the ability of unionists to believe that the British government would protect Northern Ireland`s status within the United Kingdom at all costs. David McKittrick and David McVea assume that there was ultimately a reluctant tolerance for direct domination within the Unionist community, that “there was no serious sign of mutiny among Protestants that prevailed in the public service and in the RUC. The acceptance of the direct rule may have been grumpy, but it was always an acceptance.
 In January 1974, the Ulster Unionist Party narrowly voted against further participation in the assembly and Faulkner resigned as president to be replaced by the anti-Sunningdale Harry West. .