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Article Title

The Belfast Agreement

Authors

David Trimble

Abstract

Jim Molyneaux and Ian Paisley, the then unionist leadership, began this process in 1987 when they gave alternative proposals to Tom King, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Brooke talks ended in apparent failure in November 1992, but from a unionist perspective, in fact made significant progress. There was a period in 1993 when it appeared that the British government was receptive to unionist urging to implement the "strand one committee report." Despite these doubts, we in the Ulster Unionist Party remained in the talks when Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, was admitted in September 1997. The last decade had also brought a change in unionist attitudes. In the 1930s, there was a serious "back to Westminster" movement within the Ulster Unionist Party. They were content at that, even if they could only participate vicariously in British politics. This reflects the unionist view that the relevant context is the British Isles as a whole, which was an integrated political entity until partition in 1921. Although other parties had played a part in the discussions, at the end it came down to the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party. Moreover, we were well aware that any safeguards would be equally applicable to defend unionist interests. Since then one Ulster Unionist Assembly member has defected to the anti-Agreement unionists.

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