It was one of the darkest years in Northern Ireland’s history.

But in 1974 a short-lived, cross-party government laid the foundations for the peace process, argues Dr Shaun McDaid of the University of Huddersfield in a new book.

In Template for Peace: Northern Ireland 1972-75 Dr McDaid examines the influence of an assembly combining nationalists and unionists.

The ‘lost peace process’ created a blueprint for the government of Northern Ireland today, Dr McDaid argues.

The first power-sharing government formed against a backdrop of hard-line politics and the worst sectarian violence in the province’s history.

Despite its good intentions the cross-party assembly lasted just five months but it encouraged the Heath and Wilson governments to adopt a different approach to Northern Ireland.

Dr McDaid, a Huddersfield University research fellow, said: “Both the Heath and Wilson governments appreciated that Northern Ireland was just that bit different and that it needed some form of structure that was separate from the Westminster power structure.

“I believe that there was really a genuine wish to see Northern Ireland have devolution restored from that point of view, because direct rule was not really satisfactory and they saw power-sharing as the only long-term, fair and sustainable solution.”

Template for Peace (Manchester University Press) is available from .