A political history of the SDLP and Sinn Fein, from the onset of "the Troubles" in 1970 to the 2001 general election. It outlines the political fortunes of the SDLP from its participation in the 1974 power-sharing government to facing direct competition from Sinn Fein during the Hunger Strikes of the early 1980s. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985 signified a major coup for the SDLP over the Republican movement. Henceforth it was the SDLP's analysis of the Northern Ireland conflict that was accepted by the British and Irish governments, along with the White House. By 1993 it was polling well ahead of Sinn Fein, and in the 1998 Assembly elections it obtained its highest vote ever. Yet three years later, at the 2001 general election, Sinn Fein overtook it as the largest nationalist party. What explains this dramatic reversal of fortunes for the SDLP, and why has Sinn Fein achieved far greater political influence than it ever dared hope for?
Drawing on interviews with prominent Sinn Fein members, including Mitchel McLaughlin, Pat Doherty, Alex Maskey and Michelle Gildernew, the authors explain the dynamics of Republican politics since 1970, explaining why armed struggle was replaced by electoral politics, and how Sinn Fein ultimately overtook the SDLP as northern nationalism's primary representative. The work also explores the Republican balance sheet: what were its gains and losses in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and how did the leadership persuade the rank and file of its merits?
Gerard Murray is Honorary Fellow, Institute of Governance, Edinburgh University, and author of John Hume and the SDLP: Impact and Survival In Northern Ireland (1998). Jonathan Tonge is Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for Irish Studies at the University of Salford. His previous books include Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change (2001).
Contents: From Civil Rights to Civil Strife: The Birth of the SDLP and the Provisional IRA Collapsing Stormont: Politics and Rebellion in the Early 1970's - The Sunningdale Experiment: Hopeful Transitions - Marginalisation, Exclusion and Rebirth: Republicanism 1972-79 - Political Inertia.