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A BREAKTHROUGH IN BELFAST

Past Efforts That Failed

April 11, 1998

Northern Ireland's history has been littered with failed political initiatives. A brief history:

1973: British and Irish governments and compromise-minded Northern Ireland politicians sign Sunningdale accord creating a Northern Ireland Executive in which Ulster Unionists would share Cabinet power with the major Catholic party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party, and cross-community Alliance Party.

1974: Many Protestants oppose Sunningdale accord on grounds Executive will cooperate with the Irish Republic in a new Council of Ireland. Protestant general strike across Northern Ireland shuts roads, electricity, water. Executive collapses; British "direct rule" resumes.

1975: Elections to a Constitutional Convention aimed at hammering out compromise system for government; more the half the seats won by unionists opposed to sharing power and committed to restoring old Stormont system; convention collapses with no agreement in 1976.

1982: Britain holds election to new Northern Ireland Assembly in which politicians would work out plans for self-government. IRA-allied Sinn Fein party runs for first time in Northern Ireland election. Both SDLP and Sinn Fein then boycott Assembly on grounds it doesn't have Irish unity on agenda. Protestants and Alliance Party run powerless Assembly until Britain pulls plug in 1986.

1985: British and Irish prime ministers sign Anglo-Irish Agreement giving Irish Republic formal role in shaping Britain's policies in Northern Ireland for first time.

1991: Britain launches multiparty talks with goal of forging new assembly for Northern Ireland, new relations between north and south of Ireland, and new agreement between Britain and Ireland. Talks end inconclusively in 1992.

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