Abolition of Home Rule and the Unionist Strike

Abolition of Home Rule and the Unionist Strike

Bloody Sunday 1972 - History GCSE RevisionAfter Bloody Sunday, the British Government took the step of abolishing home rule in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Government and Parliament were replaced by a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. For a year Northern Ireland was ruled directly from Westminster. This move was taken because the British Government did not believe that the Government in Northern Ireland was capable of taking control of the violence. However, the move didn’t stop the activities of either the Provisional IRA or Unionist paramilitary groups, and both sides tried to carry out more attacks. 1972 saw a spate of bombings in Northern Irish towns and gun battles.

Britain Share Responsibility

Abolition of Home RuleHowever, it wasn’t the British Government’s intention to run Northern Ireland directly on a permanent basis, as it knew as well as anyone else that this did nothing to solve the intense hostilities between the different sides. A new Northern Ireland Assembly was set up in 1973, for which elections were held in May. The British Government also entered into negotiations with the Irish Republic to try and create a power-sharing agreement that would satisfy both Unionists and Nationalists. An agreement was reached by the British and Irish Governments in December 1973, known as the Sunningdale Agreement. It would create a power-sharing Executive for Northern Ireland that would be picked from the Northern Irish Assembly. Responsibilities for running Northern Ireland would be shared by the Executive and the British Government, with the Irish government also having a consultative role.

The Unions Strike

However, hard-line Unionists were not in favour of all this, viewing it as being a step towards Northern Ireland being handed over to the Republic. On 15th May 1974, a Unionist group called the Ulster Workers’ Council called a general strike. It lasted for two weeks and led to riots and shortages. The strike demonstrated that the power-sharing agreement did not have enough Unionist support to be workable, and was therefore abandoned.