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Analysing the development of bipartisanship in the Dail: The interaction of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail party politics on the Irish government policy on Northern Ireland

ABSTRACT: This paper analyses the relationship between the two main parties in the Irish party system when dealing with the Northern Ireland question. Taking the Sunningdale Communiqué as a starting point, the paper argues that while aspirations for bipartisanship in the Dáil on this issue existed within the leadership of both parties at various times during the conflict, that the difference in approach and fundamental difference in ideology of party leaders meant that bipartisanship was not achieved until consensus on key issues was reached in the mid-1990s. This paper argues that analysing whether bipartisanship existed at various points in the conflict relates to the understanding of the role of the Irish party politics on the British-Irish relationship and the development of the peace process. This paper was written as part of the Breaking the patterns of conflict project being undertaken in the Institute for British-Irish Studies, UCD. The study of Irish party politics and the role of bipartisanship aims to fit into this wider project, which examines the determinants on the changing British-Irish relationship.

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