Unionist Reaction To Anglo Irish Agreement

Following the 1985 agreement – which had stunned unprepared trade unionism – the DUP and the UUP joined forces to give Dublin an advisory role in Northern Ireland`s internal affairs. The SDLP believed that the agreement could allow unionists and nationalists to live together in peace. It was November 15, 1985. It was an orange room in Belfast. It was about 8:30 p.m. Members of the Order of Oraniers and trade unionists in the region have always recovered from the news that the British and Irish governments had signed an agreement in which the future of Northern Ireland would rest in the “bloodied hands of Dublin”. The British House of Commons voted by a majority of 426 votes (473 in favour and 47 against, the largest majority during Thatcher`s term) in favour of a proposal to approve the agreement. The majority of the Conservative party voted in favour (although there were a few Unionist MPs in the party who opposed it), as did labour and the Liberal-SDP Alliance. Of Northern Ireland`s main parties, only the Social Democratic and Labour nationalist parties (SDLP) and the Inter-Community Alliance Party supported the agreement. The fate of the Union remains in the hands of the Unionist parties. You must remember the key message of the Anglo-Irish agreement: if you do not let decentralisation work, do not be surprised that London and Dublin are intervening with an alternative that you probably will not like. The division of power with Sinn Féin is as good as for unionism (after missing his chance with the SDLP on too many occasions).

Opposition from established union politicians to the agreement has gradually subsided, with more extreme elements involved in unconstitutional attempts to undermine it. But union opposition to the Dublin government`s participation in Northern Ireland affairs through the Anglo-Irish agreements has been maintained to this day. Both governments underestimated the strength of the resistance of the Northern Ireland Unionist community. During the election campaign” Ulster Says No, mass demonstrations were held to protest against the agreement. More than 100,000 people gathered in Belfast on 23 November 1985 to hear the protest speeches of James Molyneuax, Chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Ian Paisley, President of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The two leaders also supported a massive campaign of civil disobedience. The two union parties then resigned their seats in the House of Commons and, in protest, ended the district council meetings.