Anglo Irish Agreement Protests

“My father really believed that his attitude towards life in general was so negative after the agreement,” says Colin, “that he was so demoralized that his immune system revived this cancer.” Within Northern Ireland, the agreement was largely unpopular. The Unionists strongly opposed it, as Mr Thatcher did not include them in the negotiations. They also opposed the proposed IGC, fearing that Dublin would have a hand on the levers of the Ulster government. On 11 December, ministers from the Cabinet of the Republic of Ireland arrived in Belfast for the first Anglo-Irish conference. This sparked massive protests in the city, where thousands of loyalists clashed with RUC officers. Six days later, 15 EU MPs resigned their seats in the House of Commons in protest. These MPs then ran in 15 by-elections on 24 January 1986 as candidates who all took their bar seat one, which fell on the SDLP. Mr Thatcher hoped to establish a bilateral agreement with Dublin that would enhance security while recognising the “Irish dimension”: the historical and cultural relations between the Republic and Northern Ireland. By recognising these Irish ties and giving Dublin an advisory role in Northern Ireland – without renouncing British sovereignty – Thatcher hoped to win moderate nationalists in the six counties. One official wrote: “To renounce an agreement would bring us back to the dangerously negative situation we tried to escape when we started negotiating with the Irish. As we should admit public failure and attract a lot of votes against Dublin, the minority in Northern Ireland and overseas, we would be even worse off than before. Thursday, May 15, 1986 On the sixth anniversary of the imposition of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA), a series of protests and demonstrations took place. A demonstration was held in Hillsborough, County Down, where the AIA had been signed. In Belfast, members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) occupied the dashboard of the Parliament Buildings in Stormont.

In Ballylumford, County Antrim, there was a brief strike by the leaders. Such an attempt had already been made in 1973. In Northern Ireland, a power-sharing executive of Irish nationalists and trade unionists was established and Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave participated in discussions with British Prime Minister Edward Heath, which resulted in the Sunningdale Agreement. This agreement recognised that Northern Ireland`s relations with Great Britain could not be changed without the agreement of the majority of its population and provided for the creation of a Council of Ireland composed of both members of the D`il (the lower chamber of the Irish legislature) and the Northern Ireland Assembly. This agreement failed in May 1974 because of a general strike inspired by Unionist opponents of power-sharing. Strategically, the agreement showed that the British Government recognized as legitimate the Republic`s desire to have an interest in northern Ireland`s affairs, and it also showed trade unionists that by being present in the House of Commons, they could not veto British policy towards Ulster. On Wednesday 20 November 1985 Tom King, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was attacked by loyalist protesters when he arrived at Belfast Town Hall for an event. The protests were against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). [George Seawright, then a loyalist councillor, was sentenced to nine months in prison in October 1986 for his role in the demonstration.] The agreement was adopted by Seanad Iireann by 88 votes to 75 and by 37 votes to 16.

[21] [22] The Irish nationalist Fianna Féil party, the main opposition party in Ireland, also rejected the agreement.