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Sunningdale: the search for peace in Northern Ireland

by  Noel Dorr
€ 30.00

Book Details

Published by Royal Irish Academy

November 2017


Number of pages: 484

ISBN: 978-1-908997-64-7


Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize - UK, 2018 - Shortlisted


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In this book a former Irish diplomat looks at British-Irish relations in the years leading up to Sunningdale, at the Conference itself and at some of the reasons why this initiative, born in hope, did not succeed. The book includes the author’s own contemporaneous notes of the negotiations, which have not previously been published.

At Sunningdale in December 1973, leaders of the two governments and of the unionist and nationalist communities reached a settlement aimed at bringing peace to Northern Ireland.  The Irish government, for the first time, declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of the area desired it; the British government declared that if the majority indicated a wish to become part of a united Ireland they would support that wish; and all the participants agreed on new political institutions to promote cooperation and reconciliation within Northern Ireland and between both parts of the island.

Sunningdale did not succeed in its immediate objective of achieving peace, and there were still difficulties at times in Anglo-Irish relations. But the precedent set for close cooperation between the two governments in relation to Northern Ireland, and many of the concepts developed at that time, were to prove of great importance to subsequent efforts to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict, up to and including the peace achieved under the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998.

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'Noel Dorr has done a great service to scholarship and to calm analysis of a critical period in Ireland’s history. This book should be read by anyone who wishes to understand in particular the processes by which governments and their advisers deal with the great issues. Above all, it demonstrates the superior value of patient diplomacy over violence, bluster, bullying and confrontation. […] It is a book for everyone, easy to follow and full of interesting information not otherwise available. Recommended'. Ian Doherty, Dublin Review of Books, April 2018.

'Sunningdale: the Search for Peace in Northern Ireland by the eminent Irish diplomat Noel Dorr, is required reading for anybody who wants to know what led to Sunningdale; or anyone who wants to trace the development of Irish and indeed British policy on Northern Ireland'. Olivia O'Leary, The Irish Times, December 2017

'Dorr deserves our thanks for his comprehensive account of a doomed but, in the longer term, useful attempt to bring an end to a bitter conflict'. Deaglán de Bréadún, The Irish Times, December 2017

'Dorr is a reliable reporter who records the downside of the Hume hyperbole about the Council of Ireland'. Eoghan Harris, Sunday Independent, November 2017

About the authors

Noel Dorr

Noel Dorr is a former secretary-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs and served as the Irish ambassador to the United Kingdom and the United Nations. He is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and the former Chairman of the Academy's Committee on International Affairs. He has published widely on Irish foreign policy.