Crucially, when the IRA announced a ceasefire in , mainstream republican leaders had recognized that the 'long war' was unwinnable. The first major attempt was the Sunningdale Agreement , which provided for both a devolved, power-sharing administration and a role for the Irish government in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland - the so-called 'Irish dimension'. The party had grown in prominence and influence since republican hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected a member of parliament on a wave of popular support shortly before he died in
The goal of the nationalist and republican, almost exclusively Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland. During the Troubles, the scale of the killings perpetrated by all sides - republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces - eventually exceeded 3, Over 3, people were killed and thousands more injured. Direct rule returns In , the Northern Ireland parliament had been dominated by unionists for over fifty years. Several attempts to find a political solution failed until the Good Friday Agreement, which restored self-government to Northern Ireland and brought an end to the Troubles. Representatives of the 'extremes' - loyalist and republican paramilitaries - were not invited. Although Sunningdale was ultimately a failure, it contained the seeds of the much more intricate and successful Good Friday Agreement twenty five years later. This ascendancy of politics over violence was not easily achieved. By , things had deteriorated so badly that the British government suspended the Northern Ireland parliament and imposed direct rule from London. In almost all quarters, a combination of political realism and war-weariness cleared the path to negotiation. Only then had sufficient trust been developed between the communities to enable the restoration of devolution. Sunningdale's frosty reception Direct rule by British ministers was viewed as a short-term measure and a process designed to restore self-government to Northern Ireland was soon underway. Crucially, when the IRA announced a ceasefire in , mainstream republican leaders had recognized that the 'long war' was unwinnable. In , the situation was so grave that British troops were sent to help restore order. The party had grown in prominence and influence since republican hunger striker Bobby Sands was elected a member of parliament on a wave of popular support shortly before he died in At the heart of the conflict lay the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Relegated to the margins of UK politics for half a century, Northern Ireland had suddenly reclaimed centre stage. They abandoned the talks and opposed the subsequent agreement, but still took their seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly that resulted. At its heart lay two mutually exclusive visions of national identity and national belonging. This was a territorial conflict, not a religious one. The Troubles The Troubles refers to a violent thirty-year conflict framed by a civil rights march in Londonderry on 5 October and the the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April Equally, the British Army had come to the view that the conflict could not be won solely by military means. Many significant issues remained unresolved in , not least the decommissioning of republican and loyalist weapons. Peace process Cross-party talks began in earnest in Nevertheless, the Good Friday Agreement marked a seismic shift in Northern Ireland's political landscape.
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