Britain, Irish Republic Sign Historic N. Ireland Accord

Associated Press

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland signed a historic agreement today giving the Irish government a voice in running Northern Ireland, while guaranteeing long-term British sovereignty over the violence-torn province.

As Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and Ireland’s Garret FitzGerald endorsed the accord at a heavily guarded castle outside Belfast, angry Protestants demonstrated nearby, chanting, “Sellout! Sellout!”

A clandestine Protestant death squad threatened to kill anyone participating in the “treacherous” arrangement.


It was the first major attempt by the two governments to end the violence in Northern Ireland since a 1974 initiative collapsed in the face of resistance by the province’s Protestant majority.

British-Irish Panel

The pact provides for a British-Irish body to seek ways of making Northern Ireland’s Roman Catholic minority “fully first-class citizens” of the province, as FitzGerald put it at a news conference.

Though stopping short of giving the overwhelmingly Catholic republic any executive role in governing Northern Ireland, the agreement gives it the right to put forward “views and proposals” on how to eradicate the sectarian divide at the heart of the conflict in Northern Ireland, where Catholics have long demanded change in a political and social system dominated by the Protestants.

The Dublin government’s presence here would give local Catholics a place to bring their grievances. The new arrangement, first time the republic will have a formal consultative role in governing Northern Ireland since the island was partitioned 64 years ago, has been denounced by Protestants as equivalent to giving Mexico a say in running Texas.

Even as the two leaders prepared for their summit, the bloodshed continued. Near Crossmaglen, 45 miles from Belfast, a member of the province’s security forces was killed today and another was injured when their vehicle struck a land mine, police said.

‘A Recipe for War’

Hundreds of armed police of the Royal Ulster Constabulary surrounded the meeting site, once the home of the British provincial governor. The main fear was a disruption by hard-line Protestants, who called the agreement “a recipe for war.” But the IRA, which failed in a bomb-assassination attempt against Thatcher last year, is always a danger as well.


In a coded message today to the Belfast news media, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, an outlawed Protestant killer squad, called the deal “treachery” and warned, “Any members of the proposed secretariat, and anyone who collaborates with them, will be classified by us as legitimate targets for assassination.”

A few hundred Protestants managed to get past the thick security cordon and demonstrate vociferously outside the castle. About 75 of them took over a municipal building, burned an Irish flag and jeered at police. They chanted “Sellout!” and “Ulster is British!”