March 9th

On this day in 1973, it was announced that Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly for the union, with 57% of the electorate (591,280) voting to retain the relationship between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.borderpoll1973 (1).jpg

Catholic elements in Northern Ireland called for a boycott of the poll, resulting in a turnout of less than 1% in the Catholic population. With a turnout of just 58.7%, the impact of the boycott could be clearly seen. This meant that the final result of the poll was 98.9% in favour of remaining of those who voted and just 1.1%, or 6,423, of those who turned out voting to join the Republic of Ireland.

Such a vote came at a time of considerable tension, with the presence of the Irish Republican Army and more prominently its increasingly militant provisional faction being feared in response to the votes. The Provisional IRA, advocating Éire Nua, or creation of a unified federal Ireland, were in clear opposition to the decision; indeed the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for four car bombs in London following the referendum result, causing one death and injuring 200.slide_16 (1).jpg

The vote was eventually followed by a white paper seeking to introduce a devolved assembly to Northern Ireland and a Council of Ireland. The new Northern Ireland Assembly first convened in July 1973 and in December, the Sunningdale Agreement began to consider implementation of the Council of Ireland. The move was opposed by Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Workers’ Council organised a strike in response to the deal. Ulster Unionists then refused to take their seats, resulting in the collapse of the body and leading to 26 more years of direct rule from London.

The Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement Referendum 1998 marked a more conclusive shift of devolved powers with 71.1% voting in favour. The Good Friday Agreement consisted of multi party agreements between parties in Northern Ireland and an agreement between the Irish and British Isles. The Agreement led to the creation of a Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

Read more about devolved bodies (

or current developments in Irish politics (


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