The failure of the Sunningdale experiment suggested that many of the assumptions on which British policy had been based since the outbreak of the Troubles were wrong. The Ulster Workers’ Council Strike and the election of hard-line unionists undermined the British government’s claim that there existed a strong ‘moderate silent majority’ – bringing Northern Ireland up to ‘British standards’ and modernisation had not served to isolate hardliners. Power-sharing unionists had been unable to win their voters over to both power-sharing and an Irish dimension. After the collapse of the devolved government the British government considered four options:

1. Withdraw from Northern Ireland, leading to a united Ireland or the creation of an independent state.