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.
April 9th: Four UDR soldiers are killed in County Down when a Provisional IRA land mine detonates under their vehicle.
November 9th: Northern Ireland secretary Peter Brookes declares that Britain has no objection to the unification of Ireland, provided “the people wished it”.
November 22nd: Margaret Thatcher resigns as British prime minister after losing the support of her Conservative Party colleagues. She is eventually replaced as prime minister by John Major.
March 14th: The commencement of the Brookes-Mayhew talks between representatives from the British and Republic of Ireland governments, Northern Ireland Unionists and the SDLP.
April 29th: All Loyalist paramilitaries announce a ceasefire until July 4th, pending the outcome of the Brookes-Mayhew talks.
May 31st: The Provisional IRA kills three British soldiers in a bombing in County Armagh.
January 17th: The Provisional IRA uses a land mine to blow up a minibus in Teebane, County Tyrone. The bus was carrying Protestant civilians working for the British Army, deemed collaborators by the IRA. Eight men were killed. Nine days later UFF volunteers retaliate by attacking a bookmakers shop in Belfast, killing five Catholic civilians.
February 17th: Sinn Fein releases a document containing its proposed peace strategy.
April 9th: A general election in Britain returns the Conservative Party and prime minister John Major to power. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams loses his seat in the British parliament.
July 1st: Moderate Unionists agree to participate in talks with members of the Republic of Ireland, provoking outrage from Ian Paisley and others.
March 20th: Two children are killed by a PIRA bomb in Warrington, England.
April 7th: Peace campaigner Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed by a bomb in 1987, meets with Provisional IRA leaders and urges them to declare a ceasefire.
October 23rd: The Provisional IRA bombs a fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast, killing ten people, eight of them civilians. The bomb was intended for a meeting of Loyalist paramilitaries to be held above the shop, however, the meeting had been delayed. A week later the UDA retaliates by attacking the Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, County Derry, killing eight civilians (six Catholics and two Protestants).
December 15th: Talks between Britain and Ireland result in the Downing Street Declaration, aiming to allow the people of Northern Ireland a say in its future. Sinn Fein was promised a role in the talks to follow provided that they removed themselves from paramilitary violence.
January: The Republic of Ireland government lifts a broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein and its leaders.
June 2nd: A helicopter crash in Scotland kills 29 people including most of Britain’s Northern Ireland intelligence experts.
August 31st: The Provisional IRA calls a halt to all military operations, pending the outcomes of talks announced in the Downing Street Declaration.
September 16th: The British government lifts a ban on broadcasting the voices of Gerry Adams and other Republican leaders.
October 13th: The Combined Loyalist Military Command, an umbrella group representing Northern Ireland’s Loyalist paramilitaries, announces a ceasefire, to remain in effect while the IRA ceasefire continues.
March 17th: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams shakes hands with US president Bill Clinton at a St Patrick’s Day luncheon in Washington D.C. Clinton later receives Adams at the White House, a meeting that causes some controversy.
June 25th: Lee Clegg, a British private sentenced to life imprisonment in 1993 for shooting an 18-year-old Catholic civilian, is released on license. Clegg’s release sparks riots in Catholic areas of Northern Ireland.
September 8th: David Trimble is elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Febuary 9th: The Provisional IRA ends its August 1994 ceasefire by bombing the Docklands area of London, killing two people.
June 10th: Peace talks commence at Stormont, without the attendance of delegates from Sinn Fein.
June 15th: The Provisional IRA detonates a massive bomb in the shopping district of Manchester, England, injuring 200 people.
July 7th: The Orange Order’s annual march through Catholic areas of Portadown, County Armagh is blocked by the RUC. This triggers several days of rioting and fighting between Loyalists, Catholics and RUC officers, forcing the RUC to back down and allow the march to proceed.
June: Sinn Fein wins its first seats in the Republic of Ireland Dail.
July 20th: The Provisional IRA declares another ceasefire pending peace talks at Stormont, scheduled for September.
September 8th: Sinn Fein signs the Mitchell Principles, affirming its commitment to a democratic, consultative and non-military peace process.
September 15th: Peace talks commence at Stormont between representatives of all parties, including Sinn Fein. It is the first time that Sinn Fein leaders have met with British ministers since 1921.
November: Dissatisfied with the progress of peace talks, several radical members of the Provisional IRA meet in the Republic of Ireland to discuss ways of continuing the armed struggle. They later form a splinter group called the Real IRA.
January 29th: British prime minister Tony Blair announces a new inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday 1972, to be headed by Lord Saville. This inquiry begins in April but does not hand down its findings until June 2010.
April 10th: The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement is signed at Stormont. This agreement determines that Ireland shall remain divided until a majority of the citizens of Northern Ireland decide otherwise. It also affirms that all citizens of Northern Ireland are entitled to civil rights. The Irish language is to be taught in schools. Paramilitary groups are given 24 months to decommission and disarm. Political prisoners are to be released and the British security presence in Northern Ireland is to be steadily reduced.
May 9th: The Real IRA contacts a media organisation in Belfast and announces its existence, claiming responsibility for a mortar attack in Belleek, County Fermanagh.
May 22nd: Referendums on the Good Friday Agreement are held in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both produce majorities in favour of the agreement (71 per cent in Northern Ireland and 94 per cent in the Republic).
June 25th: Elections for the newly formed Northern Ireland Assembly are held. The largest parties in the assembly are David Trimble’s UUP (28 seats), the SDLP (24 seats), Ian Paisley’s DUP (20 seats) and Sinn Fein (18 seats). Trimble is elected as the inaugural First Minister of Northern Ireland.
July 5th: Violence erupts again in Drumcree, Portadown during the annual Orange Order march, as 10,000 Loyalists do battle with RUC and Catholics.
August 15th: The Real IRA detonates a large car bomb in central Omagh, killing 29 people and injuring between 200-300 others. At a time when the peace process seemed to be working, this bombing causes shock and outrage across Ireland.
August 8th: The INLA issues a statement declaring that it has no intention of resuming its military campaign, as there is “no political or moral argument” to do so.
December 1st: British Direct Rule in Northern Ireland is formally ended and power is handed to the Northern Ireland Assembly.