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  • Publication
    The British government and the peace process ; Response to the secretary of state
    (University College Dublin. Institute for British-Irish Studies, 2001) ;
    One of the lessons to be drawn from the history of Northern Ireland is the need for unionists to be involved in the peace process: unionist opponents of the agreement, however sincere, are only undermining the long term interests of unionism. Even those who oppose the administration are governed by it, and it would be a needless tragedy if a disaffected nationalist community was replaced by a disaffected unionist community. The Catholic community once felt disaffected, but the civil rights movement gave it a more assertive voice. The civil unrest of these early years culminated in the Sunningdale agreement of 1973, which anticipated several of the key provisions of the 1998 settlement; but this agreement collapsed in the face of unionist opposition. An improved British-Irish relationship in the 1980s and 1990s permitted two fundamental principles to gain widespread acceptance: those of consent, and of the equal validity of nationalist and unionist aspirations. The Good Friday agreement, representative of a wide range of parties and interests, incorporated these principles and provided a detailed blueprint for the future. Major strides towards its full implementation have already been undertaken, and, while the agreement might not have provided a final solution, it has provided a framework within which the people of Northern Ireland can themselves arrive at an accommodation