Ulster Says No – I was there !

Ulster Says No !

Ulster Says No was the name and slogan of a unionist mass protest campaign against the provisions of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave the government of the Republic of Ireland an advisory role in the governance of Northern Ireland.

For British unionists (those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom), this was seen as foreign interference in the internal affairs of the UK. For Irish nationalists, those provisions were seen as a start at fixing the democratic problem of lack of political representation of the large minority of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Says No campaign was led by Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley.

After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement by British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, unionist leaders stated that the agreement to allow the Republic’s government its new role needed to be put before the Northern Ireland electorate in a referendum and organised a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly to that effect.

Irish republican party Sinn Féin also objected (albeit for different reasons).Fo r similar reasons, in the Irish Parliament, the main opposition party Fianna Fáil also voted against.

A large rally protested the move at Belfast City Hall. The numbers attending were estimated to be at least 100,000  while unionist sources estimated over 200,000. Paisley and all the other unionist MPs resigned from the British House of Commons in protest, and all except Jim Nicholson were subsequently re-elected in the resultant by-elections.

Ian Paisley ULSTER SAYS NO

My Thought ?

The Anglo-Irish Agreement  along with many other high profile events during the Troubles , including Bloody Friday and the Shankill Bomb was a pivotal moment in Loyalist/Protestant history and at the time many including myself saw this as a complete sell out and another step  on the road to a United Ireland. Living in Glencairn ( 19 at the time )  we went buck mad with rage and as so often happened during the Troubles this led to riots and chaos throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland . I remember vividly some of the riots that took place and I took part in around this time. Don’t judge me to harshly , I was a product of the time and place I lived through.

Once I was walking a girl home from the Woodvale to the Shankill and I walked straight into/through  a riot taking place by Ardoyne. No bothers me thinks waving at people I knew in the crowds and then someone threw a petrol bomb and before I knew what was happening it landed on my right arm and within seconds flames were crawling up my arm.  As I fought  frantically to put  it out I heard one of my friends call out from the mob :

Quick , get more Petrol, Chambers is going out! “

Needless to say I was not impressed , the Belfast humour back then could be very black  indeed and even in the maelstrom of a riot we could find something to laugh about. My sister Mags was  living in Ottawa Street (Woodvale) at the time and  when the police/army use to charge us we would all run down the local streets, full of Terrace houses and all the neighbours , including my sister would open their front doors so we could escape the long arm of the law and hide in the back yard until the coast was clear . Crazy days, but back then the community acted and thought as one and we all looked out for each other no matter what.

I remember going to the rally by the City Hall and me and my mates climbed up above H Samuels jewellers and had a birds eye view of Big Ian and the other speakers on the platform.

NEVER !

 NEVER !

 NEVER !

Then someone broke into the sports shop and next thing we know thousands of golf and tennis balls are flying everywhere and this memory is imprinted on my soul forever!

I cover this and many other major events of the Troubles in my forthcoming autobiography.

See here to read some extracts : Belfastchildis.com

Ulster Protestants Protest 1985 -1986

Anglo-Irish Agreement

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was a 1985 treaty between the United Kingdom and Ireland which aimed to help bring an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The treaty gave the Irish government an advisory role in Northern Ireland’s government while confirming that there would be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland unless a majority of its people agreed to join the Republic. It also set out conditions for the establishment of a devolved consensus government in the region.

The Agreement was signed on 15 November 1985 at Hillsborough Castle, by the British prime ministerMargaret Thatcher, and the Irish TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald

Background

During her first term as Prime Minister, Thatcher had unsuccessful talks with both Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey on solving the conflict in Northern Ireland. In December 1980 Thatcher and Haughey met in Dublin, with the subsequent communiqué calling for joint studies of “possible new institutional links” between Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.[2] Although this resulted in the founding of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council in 1981, Anglo-Irish relations had by this time deteriorated due to the Irish hunger strike and so this body was neglected.

Haughey resumed power shortly afterwards and took Argentina’s side during the Falklands War, leading to the meeting scheduled for July 1982 to be cancelled.  However, the British Northern Irish Secretary, Jim Prior, proposed “rolling devolution”: a step by step approach whereby local government was devolved to an assembly elected by proportional representation. This was boycotted by the nationalist community and the plan was dead by June 1983.

The IRA‘s campaign on the mainland was ongoing, with the bombing of Chelsea Barracks in October 1981, the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings in July 1982 and the Harrods bombings in December 1983. Thatcher herself was the target in the Brighton hotel bombing of October 1984. British military intelligence informed Thatcher that she could not take the IRA head on and the likelihood of never-ending violence persuaded her to seek a political solution to the Troubles..

The Anglo-Irish Agreement’s origins lay in the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the British and Irish foreign offices, co-ordinated by the Cabinet Secretary, Robert Armstrong, and the secretary to the Irish government, Dermot Nally.

The New Ireland Forum had been founded (with the backing of then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald) in May 1983 by John Hume in an attempt to undercut support for the IRA by bringing together constitutional nationalist parties from both sides of the border. In June 1983 Thatcher and Fitzgerald met again and revived the Anglo-Irish Council, which met sixteen times between November 1983 and March 1985.

The report of the New Ireland Forum was published in May and suggested three possible solutions: a federal united Ireland, a confederal united Ireland or joint sovereignty. Fitzgerald hoped that Thatcher might be persuaded of the third option but at the press conference after their meeting Thatcher publicly proclaimed that all three options were “out”.

Thatcher’s intransigence persuaded the American President, Ronald Reagan, to intervene.

The most powerful pressure for the Agreement came from the United States, where the Irish-American lobby was second only to the Israel lobby in influence.[6] Led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill, and Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Moynihan, the Irish lobby regularly denounced what they considered British colonialism and human rights violations in Northern Ireland. Reagan, who was also Irish-American and visited Ireland in June 1984, increasingly encouraged Thatcher to make progress on Anglo-Irish talks.

45 Senators and Congressmen (including O’Neill, Kennedy and Moynihan) wrote to Reagan criticising Thatcher’s rejection of the Forum’s report. They also pushed him to pressure Thatcher into reconsidering her stance at the upcoming meeting at Camp David in December 1984. Reagan duly discussed Northern Ireland with Thatcher at their meeting, telling her that “making progress is important” and that “there is great Congressional interest in the matter”, adding that O’Neill wanted her to be “reasonable and forthcoming”.

Afterwards, Reagan assured O’Neill that he had emphasised the need for progress.

Sean Donlon, the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, later claimed that “the intervention by Reagan was vital, and it was made possible by Tip”. Michael Lillis, the Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1983-1985, similarly claimed that “O’Neill was very active and effective in mobilizing the President. And there is no doubt whatsoever that Reagan’s regular references to this in his interaction with Thatcher helped us in a major way”.

By January 1985, Thatcher was persuaded that progress must be made on the issue. Her primary aim was security but realised that in order for help in this area she would need to concede in other areas, such as grievances over policing and the courts. She also hoped that this would help reconcile the Catholic population to the United Kingdom. She invited John Hume to Chequers on 16 January to discuss Northern Ireland. She now accepted that an “Irish dimension” was necessary in return for the Irish government’s acceptance that Northern Ireland would remain a member of the United Kingdom so long as it had majority support.[16] In April a four-member Cabinet committee had been informed of the negotiations; in October the entire Cabinet was informed. Thatcher and Fitzgerald met again in May at a European summit in which they discussed what became the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

See here for : Unionist and Loyalist opposition and more details on the agreement

See here for : Sunningdale Agreement

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