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Abstract of Important Events - The Darlington Conference, 25 to 27 September 1972



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Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
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Introduction

This is one of a number of files which provide a very brief abstract of important events during the Northern Ireland conflict. Some of the events are dealt with in greater detail elsewhere (check, for example, Key Events and the corresponding entry in the chronology.


The Darlington Conference on political options for Northern Ireland, 25 to 27 September 1972

A series of round-table talks were held at the Darlington Conference in an effort to find agreement on the political future of the region. Unionists, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) and the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) took part, but the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) refused to attend because of the continuation of internment. From the talks the government produced a discussion paper The Future of Northern Ireland: A Paper for Discussion (30 October 1972). The paper stated that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom (UK) as long as the people of Northern Ireland wished. But it added that: "There are strong arguments that the objective of real participation should be achieved by giving minority interests a share in the exercise of executive power." Although the term was not used the government was suggesting power-sharing. The document also introduced the idea of an Irish dimension, something which was bound to be viewed with suspicion by unionists. "Any new arrangements for NI should, whilst meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be, as far as is possible, acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland." The Orange Order, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Vanguard and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) all rejected this proposal.


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