Northern Ireland timeline: 1980s

This Northern Ireland timeline lists significant dates and events during the Troubles, as well as significant background events and incidents post-1998. This timeline focuses on political developments and includes significant acts of paramilitary violence or terrorism.

1980
January 23rd: Patrick Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerard Conlon and a member of the Maguire Seven, dies in a British prison.
June 10th: Eight Provisional IRA prisoners engineer an escape from Crumlin Road prison in Belfast.
October
: IRA prisoners in HM Prison Maze follow the Blanket Protest and Dirty Protest with a series of hunger strikes. These hunger strikes are called off in December.

1981
March 1st: A second hunger strike in the Maze begins, led by Bobby Sands.
April 9th: Bobby Sands wins a by-election and a seat in the British parliament. He dies on May 5th on the 66th day of a hunger strike. Nine more hunger strikers die over the coming weeks.
May 19th: Five British soldiers are killed by a Provisional IRA bomb while on patrol in County Armagh.
September 1st: Lagan College, Northern Ireland’s first religiously integrated secondary school, is opened in Belfast.
October 3rd: The Maze hunger strikes are brought to a close, having produced a publicity victory for Sinn Fein and the Republican movement.

1982
July 20th: The Provisional IRA detonates two bombs in London, one in Hyde Park and the other in Regent’s Park. The explosions kill eleven British soldiers and several military horses, while numerous civilians are also injured.
December 6th: A bomb planted by the INLA in a pub in Ballykelly, County Londonderry, explodes and kills 11 British soldiers and six civilians.

1983
April 11th: Fourteen members of the UVF are handed lengthy prison sentences for paramilitary violence, after the first so-called ‘Supergrass’ trial. Their convictions are later overturned on appeal.
July 13th: A Provisional IRA land mine explodes near Ballygawley, County Tyrone, killing four British Army UDR personnel.
August 5th: Twenty-two Provisional IRA volunteers received a combined prison sentence of more than 4,000 years. Later, all but four have their convictions overturned.
September 25th: Led by Bobby Storey, 38 IRA prisoners escape from HM Prison Maze. Around half the escapees are quickly recaptured while the rest take refuge in County Armagh. 
December 17th
: A Provisional IRA car bomb explodes outside Harrods in London, killing six people: three civilians in their 20s, including an American citizen, and three police officers. Another 90 people are also injured. The IRA leadership later claims that the bomb was planted without their authorisation.

1984
October 12th: The Provisional IRA attempts to assassinate Margaret Thatcher by detonating a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England during a Conservative Party conference. Five were killed, including a British MP, however Thatcher was unhurt.
December: Ian Thain, a private in the British Army, is convicted of murdering Thomas Reilly in Belfast. Thain would serve two years in prison and on his release be returned to the army.

1985
February 28th: The Provisional IRA attack a RUC base in Newry with mortars, killing nine officers and injuring another 37. This was the deadliest attack on the RUC during the Troubles.
November 15th
: The Anglo-Irish Agreement, or Hillsborough Agreement, is signed by Margaret Thatcher and the Irish taoiseach Garret FitzGerlad. The agreement sets up the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, a group of politicians and officials from both Britain and the Republic of Ireland to discuss issues relating to Northern Ireland.
December: All 15 Unionist members of the British parliament resign in protest against the November agreement.

1986
June: The Northern Ireland Assembly is dissolved.
August: The Provisional IRA announces that any civilians working with security forces in Northern Ireland would be viewed as collaborators and may be attacked.
November 2nd: At its party conference in Dublin, Sinn Fein splits over the issue of abstaining from taking up parliamentary seats.
November 10th: Loyalists meet in Belfast and form the Ulster Resistance, a group committed to abolishing the Anglo-Irish Agreement and ending any involvement of the Republic in the running of Northern Ireland.

1987
May 8th: A 24-man British SAS team kills all members of an eight-strong Provisional IRA squad in Loughall, County Armagh. A civilian is also killed during the gunfight.
November 8th
: A Provisional IRA bomb kills twelve people at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen. Gordon Wilson, the father of a civilian killed in the attack, appears on television and announces that he forgives those responsible. Wilson begins campaigning for an end to the cycle of violence.

1988
January: Gerry Adams and John Hume, leaders of Sinn Fein and the SDLP respectively, begin talks.
March 16th: Television crews in Milltown, Belfast  film a graphic attack on an IRA funeral by a lone Loyalist.
June 15th: Six off duty British soldiers are killed when an IRA booby trap planted under their van explodes in Lisburn, near Belfast.
October 19th
: The British government bans any media organisations it considers to be providing support to terrorists. It also bans the broadcasting of Gerry Adams’ voice.

1989
March 5th: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams calls for a “non-armed political movement to work for self determination” in Ireland.
September 22nd
: In one of the deadliest attacks on British forces of the Troubles, 11 British Army musicians are killed by a Provisional IRA bomb at their base in Deal, England.
October
: Gerard Conlon and other members of the Guildford Four have their convictions quashed, after an appellate court rules that police investigators had wilfully concealed an alibi.
November 3rd: Peter Brooke, the Northern Ireland secretary, tells the press that the IRA cannot be defeated militarily and calls for talks with Republicans.


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This page was written by Rebekah Poole and Jennifer Llewellyn. To reference this page, use the following citation:
R. Poole and J. Llewellyn, “Northern Ireland timeline: 1980s”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], http://alphahistory.com/northernireland/northern-ireland-timeline-1980s/.