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Timeline: Northern Ireland's road to peace (1987-2007)

8 November, 1987

IRA bomb at Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday event kills 11, injuring many more.
The Enniskillen bomb although not a turning point itself was one of the first incidents which the IRA publicly considered a mistake. Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said it undermined the "legitimate" use of physical force. In hindsight, the republican movement appeared to be shifting its strategy - not least because it was in a military stalemate with the security forces which were increasingly reducing its ability to wage war.

11 January, 1988

SDLP leader John Hume meets Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams for the first time.
John Hume believed that private discussions with Gerry Adams could draw the IRA towards putting down its weapons, creating an opportunity for talks and a peace process. Taking place in secret, the talks were slow going over the coming year and took place amid continuing IRA violence. Hume's strategy was to tie Adams into accepting the principles of self-determination for all, including recognising the rights of the unionist community.

19 October, 1988

Broadcasting ban begins against Sinn Fein and other groups linked to paramilitaries.

5 March, 1989

Gerry Adams says he wants a "non-armed political movement to work for self-determination".

3 November, 1989

NI Secretary Peter Brooke says IRA cannot be entirely defeated militarily and talks could follow an end to violence.
Peter Brooke was the first Northern Ireland Secretary since the 1970s to entertain the idea of talks with republicans. He later revealed that government-sanctioned contacts with Sinn Fein began in 1990, far earlier than had been thought. After leaving his Northern Ireland post he said he would have liked to have met Gerry Adams because of his "significant role" in events.

9 November, 1990

Peter Brookes "no selfish strategic interest" speech.
Peter Brooke said Britain had no "selfish strategic or economic interest" in Northern Ireland and would accept unification, if the people wished it. "It is not the aspiration to a sovereign, united Ireland against which we set our face, but its violent expression." The speech had a huge impact on republican thinking and paved the way for the Downing Street Declaration.

14 March, 1991

First roundtable talks, excluding Sinn Fein, begin and continue through to November 1992.
Although they appeared to achieve little the Brooke/ Mayhew talks (after later NI Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew) were the first to have "three strands": the relationships within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the republic, and between London and Dublin.

17 February, 1992

Sinn Fein publishes a document setting out its political peace strategy.

9 April, 1992

Gerry Adams loses his Westminster seat at general election.

1 July, 1992

Ulster Unionists agree for the first time to talks with the Irish Government.

7 April, 1993

Gordon Wilson whose daughter was killed in the 1993 Enniskillen bomb, meets IRA leaders and urges a ceasefire.

24 April, 1993

John Hume and Gerry Adams make joint statement after secret talks uncovered.
In their statement, the two men said that the Irish people as a whole had a right to self-determination. "We are mindful that not all the people of Ireland share that view or agree on how to give meaningful expression to it," they said. Despite enormous criticism, John Hume was convinced London was shifting towards a neutral position - and that republicans could be persuaded to leave violence behind.

23 October, 1993

Ten people are killed when an IRA bomb blows up a fish shop on the loyalist Shankill Road.
The Shankill bomb was one of the biggest single losses of life in the Troubles. One of those killed was the IRA's bomber. The IRA said it meant to kill loyalist paramilitaries. It prompted a wave of reprisals as loyalist paramilitaries sought revenge for the killings. The UVF immediately killed two Catholic men. A later attack by the UFF left seven dead in a bar at Greysteel. October 1993 becomes the worst month for deaths in 17 years.

28 November, 1993

Secret communications between London and IRA revealed.
Despite protestations to the contrary from Prime Minister John Major secret contracts, via intermediaries and MI5, had begun shortly after Peter Brooke's key speeches in 1989-90. London insisted the IRA had acknowledged the conflict was over but it needed help in bringing it to a close, something republicans have always dismissed.

15 December, 1993

John Major and Irish PM Albert Reynolds make Downing Street Declaration.
The document from the two PMs accepted the principle of self-determination on the basis of consensus for all the people of Ireland. It included the possibility of a united Ireland, should all people, north and south, wish it. Dublin accepted that unionists had a right to object - a key concession which led to the constitutional removal of its claim to Northern Ireland. It was a watershed in relations between the governments and was built on the personal trust of the two leaders.

29 January, 1994

President Bill Clinton sanctions a visa for Gerry Adams to enter the USA.
Bill Clinton's interventions were to become crucial to the peace process. London opposed the trip, saying it would be a publicity coup for Sinn Fein. But Mr Clinton gambled it would strengthen the hand of republicans who supported political talks and help pave the way to an IRA ceasefire.

18 June, 1994

Loyalist gunmen kill six Catholic men in a bar at Loughlinisland, County Down.

31 August, 1994

The IRA announces "a complete cessation of military activities".
"Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic process and underlying our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight, August 31, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly. We believe that an opportunity to secure a just and lasting settlement has been created.

16 September, 1994

Broadcasting ban against Sinn Fein lifted by UK government.

13 October, 1994

The Combined Loyalist Military Command announces a ceasefire.
Gusty Spence, a veteran loyalist paramilitary, read the statement. "We are on the threshold of a new and exciting beginning with our battles in future being political battles, fought on the side of honest, decency and democracy against the negativity of mistrust, misunderstanding and malevolence, so that, together, we can bring forth a wholesome society in which our children, and their children, will know the meaning of true peace."

7 March, 1995

NI Secretary Patrick Mayhew reveals three-point plan to remove IRA weapons ahead of talks.
Sir Patrick Mayhews announcement of the "Washington three" conditions boiled down to telling republicans they could only enter negotiations by starting the process of destroying their arms. Arms decommissioning, as it became known, would become a key stumbling block in the years to come.

10 May, 1995

The first official meeting in 23 years between Sinn Fein and a government minister.

9 July, 1995

First major stand-off over the annual Drumcree parade.
The Drumcree March became one of the most contentious of the Orange Order's parading season and an annual symbol of division. Nationalist residents of an area of Portadown refused to allow the march down their main road - and the Orange Order refused to re-route it on the grounds of tradition. Despite being a relatively small parade, the protests began to draw many more demonstrators.

30 November, 1995

US President Bill Clinton makes his first visit to Northern Ireland to bolster the peace process.

9 February, 1996

The IRA explodes the Docklands bomb London killing two.
Announcing the end of the ceasefire, the IRA accused London of having acted in bad faith and unionists of squandering a chance to end the Troubles. Opponents said the bombing proved why guns had to go before there could be talks. Political links with Sinn Fein were cut and the party locked out of talks.

February, 1996

The Mitchell Report sets out proposals for how to tackle decommissioning amid political talks.
The International Body on Arms, chaired by US senator George Mitchell, concluded paramilitaries would not disarm before talks. It recommended disarmament alongside talks and confidence-building measures from government to help this happen.

30 May, 1996

Elections for representatives to possible peace talks. Sinn Fein gets its highest ever vote of 15.5%, although remains excluded.

15 June, 1996

IRA bombs Manchester, destroying a large part of the city centre.

7 July, 1996

Second Drumcree stand-off. Police eventually allow march which is followed by major riots.

12 February, 1997

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick becomes the last British soldier to be killed in Northern Ireland by the IRA.

April, 1997

IRA causes chaos across England with hoax bomb alerts targeting motorways and Grand National horse race.

1 May, 1997

Tony Blair becomes prime minister as Labour wins the general election.

20 July, 1997

IRA announces a renewal of its ceasefire after government resumes contacts with Sinn Fein.

September, 1997

Unionists, including Ian Paisley's DUP, boycott talks because Sinn Fein has been admitted.

13 October, 1997

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams meets Prime Minister Tony Blair for the first time.
Tony Blair and his NI secretary Mo Mowlam quickly pressed ahead with talks, insisting the parties had to sit down and find a deal. Key to these talks would be US Senator George Mitchell, a man who became a trusted broker between the unionists and republicans.

9 January, 1998

NI Secretary Mo Mowlam visits loyalist inmates at the Maze prison to urge them to support the coming talks.
Throughout the peace process the views of both loyalist and republican prisoners were crucial to the direction taken by their political representatives on the outside. Sinn Fein would not have been able to negotiate without the support of IRA members inside the Maze prison - and neither could the smaller loyalist parties.

29 January, 1998

Prime Minister Tony Blair announces the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
An inquiry into the death of civilian protesters in Londonderry, January 1972, was a key demand of nationalist in the runup to the political deal. They wanted a new fully open public inquiry into the events.

10 April, 1998

Northern Ireland's parties sign up to the Good Friday Agreement. Democratic Unionists oppose the deal.
The agreement, the first of its kind in Northern Irelands history, established a power-sharing devolved assembly and executive, new links across the Irish border and a change in the relationships between London and Dublin. It also paved the way for a military scale-down and police reform. It called for, but did not insist upon, paramilitary arms decommissioning.

30 April, 1998

IRA statement says agreement falls short. "There will be no decommissioning by the IRA," it declares.

7 May, 1998

Dissident republicans opposed to Sinn Fein strategy form the "Real IRA".
The republican movement has experienced a number of splits, the modern IRA and Sinn Fein born out of one at the beginning of the Troubles. Following the Good Friday Agreement, dissidents vehemently opposed Sinn Fein's ending of its abstention from British institutions - something they said reduced the possibility of a united Ireland.

22 May, 1998

Referendum sees 71% support the deal in Northern Ireland, but there is a large "no" vote from sceptical unionists.

25 June, 1998

First elections to Northern Ireland Assembly. UUP and SDLP are largest parties. Antiagreement DUP comes third.
Despite the agreement and elections the parties were no closer to actually working together in power-sharing. IRA arms remained the sticking point - yet republicans said they had to see movement on a scaling down of the military, police reform and release of prisoners.

5 July, 1998

Fourth stand-off over Drumcree leads to widespread violence.
After days of stand-offs at the march involving thousands of protesters three Catholic boys, Richard, Mark, and Jason Quinn (11, 10 and nine respectively) are killed when their Ballymoney home is petrol-bombed in a sectarian attack. Rev William Bingham, chaplain for the order in County Armagh, calls for the protests to end, saying they were in the shadow of "three little coffins."

15 August, 1998

Real IRA bombs Omagh town centre, killing 29 people and two unborn babies.
The largest single atrocity of the conflict, hundreds suffered appalling injuries and loss of limbs. Some hoped the bombing would be a wake-up call for the parties still at loggerheads. Gerry Adams later said: "The violence we have seen must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone".


3 September , 1998

US President Bill Clinton's second visit to Northern Ireland to bolster the peace process.

10 September , 1998

Gerry Adams and the UUP's David Trimble meet for first talks between unionists and republicans in 75 years.

11 September , 1998

First paramilitary prisoner releases under the Good Friday Agreement.

30 September , 1998

First significant demolition of security installations and checkpoints since the Good Friday Agreement.

17 October , 1998

The SDLP's John Hume and the UUP's David Trimble share the Nobel Peace Prize.

February , 1999

Disagreement between parties over arms decommissioning continues to prevent start of power-sharing.

1 April, 1999

Sinn Fein says it cannot deliver IRA arms before the executive sits, despite unionist demands.

July, 1999

An attempt to nominate ministers at the assembly collapses as the UUP boycotts the meeting over IRA arms.
Despite a year of talks little progress had been made by the summer of 1999. The government brought back US Senator George Mitchell, chair of the original talks, to find a way through. His task is to build confidence between the unionists and republicans.

9 September , 1999

Pattern report recommends wholesale reform of Northern Ireland policing.
The Patten Commission made 175 recommendations including changing its name, its oath, its badges and symbols. It recommended a complete change in its organisation , including creating controversial community-led policing boards. The force as a whole would be answerable to a board carefully balanced between both communities and linked to the power-sharing assembly. The report also demanded 50-50 recruiting of Protestants and Catholics .

November , 1999

IRA announced it will talk to the international arms decommissioning chief.
As part of a complex series of steps, the IRA announced it would talks about arms decommissioning, providing the power-sharing executive took office. The unionists backed the deal, paving the way for devolution.

29 November , 1999

Assembly meets and nominates executive ministers as power-sharing begins.
Thursday 2 December saw major constitutional change in Northern Ireland. Devolution came to Belfast, Dublin dropped its claim to the north, and new North-South and British-Irish bodies were established. Ulster Unionist David Trimble becomes first minister, Seamus Mallon of the SDLP deputy. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness becomes education minister. The Democratic Unionists remained opposed to the deal.

11 February , 2000

NI Secretary Peter Mandelson suspends assembly because of no arms decommissioning.

27 March, 2000

Bloody Sunday Inquiry opens for hearings in Londonderry.

6 May, 2000

The IRA announces it will open some arms dumps to inspection.
Despite public deadlock, behind-the-scenes negotiations led to a proposed sequence of events which envisaged a return to power-sharing linked to a firm IRA commitment to decommissioning. But any IRA action would, it appeared be dependent on British movement on policing reform and demilitarisation . This would provide, in the words of republicans, the "context" within which arms would be "completely and verifiably put beyond use".

29 May, 2000

Unionists agree a return to Stormont on basis of arms being dealt with while assembly functions.

26 June , 2000

Weapons inspectors confirm they have inspected some IRA arms dumps and concluded arms cannot be removedwithout their detection.

20 September , 2000

Dissident republicans launch a rocket propelled grenade at MI6 headquarters, London.

4 March, 2001

Dissident republicans car bomb BBC Television Centre in London.

May, 2001

Tension begins to grow between parties ahead of the general election.
Although the assembly was functioning, there appeared to be no movement on the IRA's arms. Ulster Unionist First Minister David Trimble told supporters he would quit a month after the election if there was no progress on arms.

7 June , 2001

Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionists gain at General Election.
Throughout the political process, David Trimble struggled to keep all of his party, the Ulster Unionists, on board. Every time he returned to his party for their support, it appeared they were even more divided. Mr Trimble insisted his policies would lead to the IRA's end - but many in his party remained sceptical . In June 2001, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists took a step towards becoming the dominant voice among Protestant voters when they inflicted losses on David Trimble's party.

1 July, 2001

First Minister David Trimble quits - but nominates a standin to create a six-week negotiating space.

6 August, 2001

Arms chief Gen John de Chastelain says the IRA has a plan to put arms "beyond use".

10 August, 2001

Government technically suspends assembly as a tactic to extend negotiations.

16 August, 2001

Three Irish men are arrested in Colombia and accused of being IRA men, training Marxist rebels.
The arrest of three men in Colombia led to uproar in Northern Ireland com£ing the suspicion among republicanism's opponents that the IRA had not gone away. The men denied being members of the IRA, saying they were in the area as tourists and not, as authorities claimed training rebels in the IRA,s bomb-making techniques.

3 September , 2001

Children caught in clashes outside Holy Cross Catholic girl's school, north Belfast, in a row between loyalists and nationalists.

21 September , 2001

Second technical suspension of the assembly amid little progress.

22 October , 2001

Gerry Adams admits one of three IRA suspects held in Colombia was the party's Cuba representative.

23 October , 2001

IRA announces first act of decommissioning, witnessed by the arms chief, triggering a return to power-sharing.
It was a hugely significant move, but still left many divided over whether it was the beginning of the end, or just a negotiating tactic. The IRA's statement said the onus was on every party to make the deal work - but it had implemented the arms decommissioning plan to "save the peace process" and as a gesture of its "genuine intentions".

3 November , 2001

Amid unionist splits over the IRA's move, David Trimble requires support of other parties to be re-elected as first minister.

4 November, 2001

Royal Ulster Constabulary becomes Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Despite police reform having been demanded by republicans, Sinn Fein refused to support the renaming of the police service and other changes, saying they had not gone far enough. The nationalist SDLP did however join the policing board and recommended that Catholics considering a policing career should join the force.

March, 2002

IRA suspected of involvement in break-in at Castlereagh police headquarters.

8 April, 2002

IRA announces second tranche of arms put "beyond use" amid growing distrust between parties.
While the IRA had again moved to dispose of some of its arsenal, many people still harboured doubts over its long-term intentions. The security forces believed the IRA, to some extent, was still organising along paramilitary lines.

1 May, 2002

NI Secretary John Reid says IRA has to show that "the war is over".

4 October, 2002

Police raid Sinn Fein's Stormont offices in investigation into republican intelligence gathering.
The allegations behind the raid led to a complete breakdown in trust between republicans and other parties. The IRA was accused of running a spying operation in the Northern Ireland Office; Sinn Fein said the raid was a political stunt aimed at deflecting attention from others who had failed to fulfil their side of the bargain.

14 October, 2002

NI Secretary John Reid suspends devolution as power-sharing unravels over IRA allegations.
The police raid on Sinn Fein's offices proved a critical blow to power-sharing as it convinced many unionists republicans could not be trusted. Despite two acts of arms decommissioning, little trust had developed between the two sides, although most commentators thought the assembly and executive were actually working fairly well.

17 October, 2002

In a keynote speech Tony Blair tells the IRA it cannot continue "half in, half out" of the process.

April, 2003

After months of paralysis London and Dublin propose a blueprint on the way forward.

1 May, 2003

Prime Minister Tony Blair postpones assembly elections.
Tony Blair said there was a lack of clarity over the IRA's position and accused the IRA of refusing to completely rule out all paramilitary-related behaviour. The IRA then released its draft statements seen by the governments, claiming they proved peaceful intent.

September, 2003

Independent Monitoring Commission charged with scrutinising paramilitaries begins work.

1 October, 2003

Parties move towards a new political deal.
Despite months of virtually no movement, by the autumn of 2003 there appeared a willingness on all sides to return to power-sharing. Extensive behind-the-scenes contacts on how the IRA will continue decommissioning, lead to optimism of a comprehensive deal.

21 October, 2003

Third act of IRA arms decommissioning. Unionists reject it as not sufficiently open.
This was expected to be a major step forward - yet it unravelled amid acrimony. Arms chief John de Chastelain said it was the largest cache of weapons so far disposed of - his colleague said the arsenal was capable of causing huge loss of life. But it was not enough for unionists; David Trimble said he could not return to government without full transparency. Power-sharing was off again.

November, 2003

Martin McGuinness tells the Bloody Sunday Inquiry he was an IRA commander in the 1970s.

26 November, 2003

Assembly elections see Ian Paisleys Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein emerge the winners.
The year ended with no sign of a deal with the Democratic Unionists maintaining they would never sit in government with a party that has guns. Dr Ian Paisley said he wanted no less than the end of the IRA.

20 February, 2004

IRA implicated in attempted abduction of a dissident republican from a Belfast bar.

March, 2004

First substantial talks since assembly elections see no breakthrough.

26 April, 2004

Three Irish men suspected of being members of the IRA are acquitted of training Marxist rebels in Colombia.

September, 2004

Intensive talks at Leeds Castle. Republicans led by Gerry Adams reportedly say IRA will accept arms witnesses.
Leaks following the talks revealed republicans had proposed to allow two clergymen, one Protestant and one Catholic, to witness a major act of arms decommissioning. This fell short of unionist demands for visual proof of the destruction of weaponry.

23 November, 2004

Bloody Sunday Inquiry finally closes, ahead of the publication of its report in 2005.

24 November, 2004

Ian Paisley says the IRA can become an "old boys association" if it deals with arms.

29 November, 2004

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams meets NI chief constable Hugh Orde for the first time.

8 December, 2004

Proposed political deal unravels over photos of IRA arms.
Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern said they had a package for a final political settlement. Sinn Fein said republicans would accept the complete decommissioning of IRA arms as part of that deal. The measures included other changes addressing nationalist concerns. However, Sinn Fein said photographing IRA arms was unacceptable because unionists might use them to humiliate republicans. Ian Paisley's DUP said it could not agree a deal without the pictures.

20 December, 2004

Record £26.5m stolen from Northern Bank in Belfast. IRA accused.
Security chiefs on both sides of the border concluded only the IRA was capable of such a massive raid. Sinn Fein vehemently denied republicans had anything to do with it. Amid the speculation in the press some observers suggested the cash was going to establish an IRA "retirement fund" or fund the coming election campaign.

30 January, 2005

Robert McCartney killed outside Belfast pub - IRA men accused.
Robert McCartney's death (his friend Brendan Devine was seriously injured in the attack) sparked substantial public opposition among nationalists in the republican area of Short Strand - a highly unusual display of anger. He was killed after an apparent row with local IRA men. Mr McCartney's five sisters launched a campaign accusing senior republicans of covering up the crime and intimidating witnesses.

2 February, 2005

The IRA scraps its offer to complete all arms decommissioning.
The IRA said its patience had snapped after being blamed for the latest breakdown in the peace process and accused by the police and UK government of being behind a £26.5m bank raid in Belfast in December. It said it was no longer prepared to press ahead with the final stage of decommissioning, although the statement was widely regarded as more of a protest than a threat.

14 February, 2005

SF President Gerry Adams urges people to help the McCartney family.
Within weeks the McCartney family campaign had substantially grown with statements to the press directly accusing IRA people of involvement in the killing. Gerry Adams condemned the killing, saying people should help by giving detrmation to the family or solicitors. He stopped short of asking them to help the police investigation. Days later the IRA released a statement saying the actions of those responsible for the killing "run contrary to republican ideals".

20 February, 2005

Irish minister links SF and IRA leadership.
Michael MCDowell Irish minister for justice, said Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, the SF chief negotiator, and Martin Ferris, a senior republican south of the border, were all members of the IRA's seven-strong Army Council. Mr McGuinness who has spoken openly of his senior IRA position in the 1970s, said the allegation was false and motivated by political manoeuvring.

17 March, 2005

McCartney family meet President George W Bush.
As Sinn Fein was cold-shouldered on its now annual St Patrick's Day visit to the US - including by some of its key allies - President George Bush made a point of meeting the McCartney sisters instead. Ahead of the sisters' trip to Washington, the IRA said it had offered to shoot the killers, having already confirmed the expulsion of three members. The family rejected the offer. Senator Ted Kennedy a supporter of the nationalist cause said it was time for the IRA to disband.

18 March, 2005

No talks possible until IRA position resolved says NI Secretary.

6 April, 2005

Gerry Adams appeals to IRA ahead of general election.
Launching his party's election campaign, Sinn Fein's president said he had told the IRA that there was now an alternative to violence. He said the climate was right for republicans to "fully embrace and accept" democratic means of achieving their goals. The statement raised hopes of progress - but was also viewed sceptically by unionists.

26 September, 2005

Weapons monitor says it is satisfied IRA has decommissioned all its arms.
Two months after the IRA pledge to end its armed struggle the head of the independent decommissioning body, Gen John de Chastelain announced his organisation was satisfied that all the group's arms were now beyond use. The decommissioning process signified a major step towards the restoration of devolution, according to the UK government. But unionists remained sceptical in the absence of photographic evidence.

8 December, 2005

Court proceedings against three men accused of spying for the IRA at Stormont are dropped.
The prosecution in the case, triggered by allegations that led to the collapse of power sharing in 2002, offered no evidence "in the public interest". The three men claimed the case had been politically motivated. One of them, senior Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson, later admitted he had been a British agent for 20 years. He said there had been no spy ring. There was political uproar but the government rejected demands for an inquiry into the affair.

11 January, 2006

Legislation that would have allowed on-the-run fugitives to return to NI is shelved in the face of widespread opposition.
The proposed law would have seen about 150 people accused of paramilitary crimes before 1998 appearing before a special tribunal and then being freed on licence. NI Secretary Peter Hain told Parliament the legislation was necessary - and the issue was not go away - but Sinn Fein's rejection of it made it unworkable. All the other major political parties in Northern Ireland had also rejected the bill, but for different reasons.



4 April, 2006

Former senior Sinn Fein member and British agent Denis Donaldson is found shot dead in the Irish Republic.
Mr Donaldson was expelled from Sinn Fein in December 2005 after admitting he was a paid British spy for 20 years. The IRA issued a statement saying it had "no involvement whatsoever" in Mr Donaldson's death in a remote County Donegal cottage. It came hours before a planned visit to Northern Ireland by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern to unveil their blueprint for reviving the assembly at Stormont. Mr Donaldson had been Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont before his 2002 arrest, over alleged spying, led to its collapse.

6 April, 2006

Northern Ireland Assembly members are given until 24 November to set up a power-sharing executive.
Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern travelled to Northern Ireland to unveil their blueprint for restoring devolution. They confirmed the assembly will be recalled on 15 May with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive. If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that attempt fails, salaries will stop.

8 May, 2006

Catholic teenager dies after being beaten with a baseball bat.
Michael McIlveen 15 dies the day after being attacked by a gang after buying a pizza in Ballymena. The killing is widely condemned by groups across the political spectrum. Young people hold vigils, and flowers are laid at the spot where he is attacked. Six teenagers are later charged in connection with his death.

15 May, 2006

Stormont assembly sits for first time since its suspension in 2002.
Speaker Eileen Bell, of the Alliance Party, reads out a letter from the government urging politicians to get back to work. Meanwhile a row erupts over PUP leader David Ervine joining the Ulster Unionist assembly grouping. UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said the move would cost Sinn Fein a ministerial seat. Eileen Bell subsequently rules the link breaks the assembly rules.

30 May, 2006

UVF paramilitary critically ill after shooting.
Paramilitary Mark Haddock, 36, is critically injured in a shooting in County Antrim while on bail on an attempted-murder charge. Haddock was named in court as a leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force and is later jailed for 10 years for grievous bodily harm with intent.

29 June, 2006

The UK and Irish prime ministers restate the 24 November deadline is the last chance for politicians to restore devolution.

14 August, 2006

Thousands line the streets of west Belfast for a parade marking the 25th anniversary of the republican hunger strikes.
Ten IRA and INLA inmates died in the protest over political status at the Maze prison in County Antrim. Hundreds of former republican prisoners and supporters gather at a rally in the Casement Park GAA ground. Leading figures from the republican movement are at the rally. There had been some criticism of the GAA in County Antrim for allowing the event to take place at one of its sports grounds.

4 October, 2006

The IRA has changed radically and some of its most important structures have been dismantled, according to the IMC.
This is the most positive report to date on IRA activity by the Independent Monitoring Commission. It says the IRA does not want to go back to violence and no longer has the capacity to mount a sustained campaign. Tony Blair welcomes the assessment, saying its "campaign is over".

9 October, 2006

DUP leader Ian Paisley and Irelands most senior Catholic cleric describe their first formal talks as positive.
Mr Paisley, moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, meets Archbishop of Armagh Dr Sean Brady at Stormont. Dr Brady describes the discussions as "helpful and constructive". Mr Paisley says they have had "a very good and useful exchange of views across a range of issues".

11 October, 2006

Three days of intensive multiparty talks, aimed at brokering a deal to restore devolution, begin at St Andrews in Scotland.

13 October, 2006

The Ulster Defence Association meets for secret talks with international peacemakers.

24 November, 2006

A transitional assembly is installed. However, a debate is interrupted as Michael Stone tries to enter to Stormont.

28 December, 2006

Sinn Fein announces it is calling a special meeting of its executive to discuss the issue of republican backing for policing.

8 January, 2007

PUP leader and East Belfast assembly member David Ervine dies after a heart attack, stroke and brain haemorrhage.
The PUP leader was an assembly member for East Belfast since 1998 and also represented the Pottinger area in Belfast City Council. Mr Ervine, a former UVF prisoner, was a key figure in brokering the loyalist paramilitary ceasefire of 1994. He became the leader of the PUP in 2002 after replacing Belfast councillor Hugh Smyth.

22 January, 2007

Police colluded with loyalists behind a dozen murders in north Belfast, the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland confirms.
Nuala O'Loan's report said UVF members in the area committed murders and other serious crimes while working as detrmers for Special Branch. It said two retired assistant chief constables refused to cooperate with the investigation. Special Branch officers gave the killers immunity, it said. The officers ensured the murderers were not caught and even "baby-sat" them during police interviews.

28 January, 2007

Sinn Fein members vote to support policing in Northern Ireland for the first time in the partys history.
About 900 party members vote at a special party conference. Sinn Fein support for policing and DUP commitment to power-sharing are seen as essential to restoring NI devolution. The decision gives Sinn Fein's ruling executive the authority to declare its support for the PSNI and the criminal justice system when devolution is restored and policing and justice powers are transferred to the assembly.

30 January, 2007

Tony Blair confirms an assembly election on 7 March. The transitional assembly at Stormont is dissolved.

7 March, 2007

The Northern Ireland electorate goes to the polls to elect 108 members to a new Stormont Assembly.
Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party emerges as the largest party with 36 of the seats. Sinn Fein takes 28, the Ulster Unionists win 18 seats, the SDLP 16, and the Alliance Party seven seats. Secretary of State Peter Hain warns he needs an answer from the parties if the 26 March deadline for devolution is to be met. He said the assembly will close if they do not sign up to power-sharing.

26 March, 2007

Devolved government to return to Northern Ireland after DUP and Sinn Fein leaders hold breakthrough meeting.
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, sitting side-by-side at Stormont confirm that power-sharing will return to Northern Ireland on 8 May. Mr Paisley said the DUP was committed to full participation in government and Mr Adams said it was a "new era".


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