Northern Ireland

52 years on from the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Sunningdale power-sharing talks begin – On this day in 1973

The artist at the Illustrated London News captured the British and Irish negotiation teams at work on the Anglo-Irish Treaty
The artist at the Illustrated London News captured the British and Irish negotiation teams at work on the Anglo-Irish Treaty The artist at the Illustrated London News captured the British and Irish negotiation teams at work on the Anglo-Irish Treaty

December 7 1973

The Sunningdale talks started exactly 52 years to the days since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

History has proved that the 1920 Partition Act was a failure and delegates today were again taking up the task of forging a lasting settlement. From the Irish point of view, one big difference is that Irish representatives 52 years ago bargained with no economic strength and under the threat of “immediate and terrible war”.

Mr Liam Cosgrave [Taoiseach] now leads a team in the knowledge that his control over the Republic is not in question. But the eight-man Irish team have the same fears as their predecessors – that concessions at the conference table could lead to violence at home.

As the Sunningdale talks began in England, The Irish News points to the potentially historic nature of the talks to help bring about a lasting settlement.

Conscript Young People – Brookeborough

Compulsory service for young people in Northern Ireland, during which they would serve somewhere other than where they live, was recommended in the Lords last night by Lord Brookeborough.

He was speaking during discussion of an order which provides an additional £31 million for services here, bringing the total amount for the financial year to £593m. The order was later agreed by the Commons.

Lord Brookeborough said: “What I would like to see is basically an extension of the schooling age, but the time to be used for conscript services for the community. We should have a compulsory period for every school leaver when he would come out of the community in which he lives and serve, either Ulster, or somewhere else in the United Kingdom or voluntary overseas work.”

As a “minimal thing”, part of this service should be done away from the individual’s area and home, Lord Brookeborough added, and went on: “The first thing we have got to do is get hold of the generation coming out and make sure it knows what the whole of Northern Ireland is like and the whole of the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Lord Brookeborough said he would have liked to see integrated education, but he knew there were enormous problems there. He thought it might, however, be possible to have conscription.

“This is a horrible word, but, after all, the whole of education is conscription because you are compelled to remain at school to a certain age. All I am after is an extension of that age.”

Showing an extraordinary level of tone deafness to the divided nature of northern society and controversies surrounding conscription in recent Irish history, the Second Viscount Brookeborough, John Brooke, who had succeeded his father in the House of Lords, former Northern Ireland prime minister Basil Brooke, upon the latter’s death in August 1973, proposed conscription in Northern Ireland for school leavers.