Cultural Responses to and the Legacies of Sunningdale

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSunningdale, the Ulster Workers' Council Strike and the Struggle for Democracy in Northern Ireland
EditorsDavid McCann, Cillian McGrattan
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Chapter11
Pages159-173
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780719099519
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017
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Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This chapter will focus on the politico-cultural legacies of the Sunningdale Agreement, a period defined by a strange blend of strife and cooperation. It will frame the experiment as a culmination of a certain kind of O’Neillite Unionism, wrenched down by the May 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council strike. The chapter will take into account some of the early promising workings of the Assembly, such as the higher-education motion introduced in January 1974 by one of the last bastions of the Labour tradition within Northern Irish constitutional politics, David Bleakley. This will lead on to the second focus of the chapter, the political emergence of Loyalist groups and the rather more ominous (and certainly more enduring) developments arising from the illegal activities of the same groups, as the Protestant working class continued its fragmentation along class lines, between the forces of law and criminality, and even in language with the appellation ‘Loyalist’ now termed to differentiate Unionist politicians from the paramilitaries. The ambiguous cultural effect on Irish Republicanism will also be considered, exemplified by the Pearse-esque admiration for the strikers rising up against Unionist elites expressed by the Provisional IRA’s Dáithí Ó Conaill. The chapter will fuse high political material with newspapers and memoir, bringing in cultural depictions of the period – such as Stewart Parker’s play Pentecost (1987) – which provide an alternative flavour of life at the time, simultaneously highlighting how the reactions to Sunningdale were rather more complex than has hitherto been presented.

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