On 21 November, an agreement was reached on a voluntary coalition of pro-agreement parties (contrary to the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, which defines Hondt`s method for electing ministers over the main parties in the Assembly). The distinguished members of the executive were former Unionist Prime Minister Brian Faulkner as Chief Executive, Gerry Fitt, Head of the SDLP, Deputy Director General, future Nobel Laureate and Leader of the SDLP John Hume as Trade Minister and Chairman of the Oliver Napier Alliance Party as Minister of Law and Head of the Law Reform Office. The other members of the executive were the Unionist Basil McIvor as Minister of Education, Unionist Herbert Kirk as Minister of Finance, Austin Currie, SDLP member, Minister of Housing, Unionist Leslie Morrell as Minister of Agriculture, Paddy Devlin, SDLP member, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Unionist Royist Bradford as Minister of the Environment and Unionist John Baxter as Minister of Information.  This new executive, made up of the aforementioned members, took office and had its very first meeting on 1 January 1974.  The UUP was deeply divided: its standing committee voted by 132 votes to 105 in favour of participation in the executive. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 provided for an Irish Council, but these provisions had never been adopted. The Unionists were furious at any «interference» by the Republic of Ireland in its newly created region. In 1973, following an agreement on the formation of an executive, an agreement was reached on the reintroduction of an Irish Council to promote cooperation with the Republic of Ireland. Between 6 and 9 December, discussions took place in the town of Sunningdale in Berkshire between British Prime Minister Edward Heath, Irish Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave and the three pro-agreement parties. On December 9, a press release was issued announcing the agreement, which was later announced as the Sunningdale Agreement. The Sunningdale Agreement was an attempt to create a Northern Ireland executive and a cross-border council of Ireland. Signed on December 12, 1973 at Sunningdale Park in Sunningdale, Berkshire.
 The Unionist opposition, violence and a general loyalist strike led to the failure of the agreement in May 1974. In signing the agreement, the Irish Government fully accepted and stated that the status of Northern Ireland could not change until the majority of the northern population wished to change that status. On 4 January 1974, four weeks after the signing of the agreement, the Ulster Unionist Council voted by 427 votes to 374 against the new Council of Ireland. This forced Faulkner to resign as head of the UUP, although he retained his position as executive chief. The Northern Ireland Assembly Bill, which came out of the White Paper, was introduced on 3 May 1973 and elections were held on 28 June for the new Assembly. The agreement was supported by the Social Democratic and Labour Nationalist Party (SDLP), the trade union UUP and the Alliance Intercommunal Party. Supporters of the deal won a clear majority of seats (52 to 26), but a significant minority in the Ulster Unionist Party rejected the deal. In the General Elections of February 1974, the United Ulster Unionist Council, a coalition of anti-Sunningdale unionists, won 11 out of 12 constituencies in Northern Ireland. Only West Belfast has returned a pro-agreement MP.