What was lost in the rejection of Sunningdale

Vincent Browne, is clearly irked by a reference in a recent Daily Ireland article to Gerry Fitt as an ‘Uncle Tomas’ figure in Irish nationalism. In response he asks what benefits Nationalism accrued from Sinn Fein and the IRA’s rejection of the Sunningdale Agreement (subs needed):

…there are a few elements to the Belfast Agreement that were not in the Sunningdale agreement – a more robust commitment to human rights and a commitment to devolve policing powers, but did they make such a difference? Or more particularly, did the difference go anywhere near justifying the slaughter of more than 1,000 people, the maiming of thousands of others and the ruination of countless lives?

Gerry Fitt was among the first to protest about nationalists being at the back of the bus and, had more people paid heed to him from the time he went to Westminster in 1965, there might not have been anything like the carnage that followed. Gerry Fitt did protest about the Saracens and the torture and internment, but that is forgotten for he also condemned the barbarity of the IRA.

After a while Gerry Fitt saw only that barbarity and none of the other injustices and, to that extent, was partial. But how about those who now, with the benefit of dispassionate hindsight, remember only the injustices of Stormont and of the viciousness and arbitrariness of the British military response to the IRA campaign, and not at all the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the IRA? Had Gerry Fitt’s politics been given time to mobilise, might not thousands of lives been saved?

15 thoughts on “What was lost in the rejection of Sunningdale”

  1. The Belfast Agreement seems better from the constitutional point of view: (i) Articles 2 and 3 are removed, (ii) it ends the Anglo Irish Agreement (in particular the Irish governments official role as protector of the interests of nationalists in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland), (iii) it means the the principle of consent was effectively endorsed in an island-wide vote and signed up to by Irish republcians (iv) it envisages total decommissioning of illegal weapons and (v) it leeps north-south bodies very limited and accountable to the NI Assembly. These all seem better than Sunningdale.

  2. On the other hand, of course, had Sunningdale stuck, some people would be living in much smaller houses.

  3. But Jimmy we really don’t know that. I would like to think you were right. Had I been around at the time I’d have backed the Executive. I’d like to think that if Sunningdale stuck the IRA would have withered away and Sinn Fein would never emerge as an electoral force. But it sounds too good to be true – too much of a fairy tale ending in a society that clearly had deep divisions to work through. What makes you think the IRA would have withered away and Sinn Fein would not have emerged anyway? It may be that there was always a vacuum there for Mr Adams’s style of politics to emerge, Sunningdale or no.

  4. Vincent should try and not get exited about what some two bit Andytown news scribe says in the daily provo bugle. I used to but have decided life is too short.

    Otherwise, happy birthday Van.

  5. Browne shjould know better than to take the Daily Provo seriously. The big difference between Sunningdale and the 1998 Agreement was a much looser and diluted “all Ireland” dimension. SF/IRA signed up to a much less “green” document at the end of the day.

  6. I’d go further and ask what was gained after the 30 years war that was not already available in 1970? By then all the major points of the Civil Rights movement had been granted with the exception of the special powers act which was still on the books in 1998, indeed still is I think.

    So the myth perpetuated by the provies that “we had to resort to violence coz we were beaten off the streets by the RUC when we asked for our rights” is simply that – a myth.

    Any major human rights grievances throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s were all as a direct result of the provies’ and the hun loyalist gangs violence.

  7. it envisages total decommissioning of illegal weapons

    Wasn’t an issue in 1974, as paramilitaries weren’t party to the agreement.

  8. Besides which, YF, “envisioning” decommissioning is not the same as getting it or even committing to a timetable for it.

  9. Besides which, YF, “envisioning” decommissioning is not the same as getting it or even committing to a timetable for it.

  10. Young Fogey

    “Oh, dear I guess I don’t exist then as I’m someone from the “nationalist community” who votes for the Alliance.”

    Well, assuming you’re for real, and you’re not bullsh1tt1ng, then you are something of an oddity; a bearded lady; an exhibit in a freak show. Fair play to you though. You’ve every right to be those things.

    “What’s your big beef here, mct? Gonzo criticised SF?”

    No, I think SF should be criticised in all appropriate cases. My beef is that he dishonestly accused them of inciting racial hatred. That’s a lie, and he should apologise. That he hasn’t done so is disappointing.

    I’m also pretty unhappy with the idea that no republican has any right to comment on any matter relating to violence in this society. I would be similarly opposed to a suggestion that no Alliance voter is entitled to comment on hyposcrisy, snobbery and obfuscation of state atrocities because of their history of those vices.

    “I mean, a member of a political party criticising a public representative from another political party??? Really shocking this robust public debate stuff, isn’t it?”

    No, that’s fine, but it should at least have involved some thought and contemplation.

    What a quaint notion, though – robust debate involving the Alliance! One day….

    “Apologies to Paddy, Chris and the other Shinners around here who are always up for a bit of honest debate.”

    I think if you look at the record I criticise and dissent from SF policy as much as any of those individuals. As is my right and theirs. But hell, why stop you in mid-rant. Especially when you’re living up to my last few prejudices.

    “I love the way they have to explain that: “”Tiocfaidh ár Lá” is the Irish for “Our Day Will Come”.”

    Yeah, internationalism; disgraceful, huh? Maybe alliance should do them a wee seminar on the joys of keeping Ulster for the Ulsterwans.

    “I mean Sinn Féin wouldn’t really be trying to raise money/sympathy among people who couldn’t tell Northern Ireland apart from Burkina Faso, would they?”

    No, I think Alliance voters are lost to SF.

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