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.
February 11th: The British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, suspends the Northern Ireland Assembly and reintroduces Direct Rule, citing a lack of progress with the decommissioning of paramilitary groups.
March 27th: The Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday commences its hearings in Derry.
May 10th: The Continuity IRA calls on the Provisional IRA to hand over all its weapons to those “prepared to defend the Republic”.
July 2nd: Violence breaks out again in Drumcree, Portadown, as RUC officers and British soldiers prevent Orange Order marchers from entering Catholic areas of the city.
July 28th: The last political prisoners to be released under the auspices of the Good Friday Agreement leave HM Prison Maze.
September 21st: Real IRA volunteers fire a rocket propelled grenade in London, targeting the headquarters of British intelligence agency MI6. In March the following year the Real IRA explodes a bomb outside the BBC in London.
June 19th: Loyalist protestors threaten and attack students, staff and parents at the Holy Cross School, a Catholic school surrounded by Protestant homes in Belfast. A Loyalist blockade prevents students entering the school. These protests continue intermittently until the end of the year.
July 11th: Orange Order and Protestant marches trigger three days of sectarian rioting and petrol bombing in Belfast. More than 110 officers are injured, 19 of them requiring hospitalisation.
November 4th: The Royal Ulster Constabulary is disbanded and replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). By law the PSNI must recruit an equal number of Protestants and Catholics.
February 25th: Members of Love Ulster, a Unionist group, organise a provocative march through central Dublin. The marchers are confronted by Republicans and local gangs, leading to violence and significant disruption. Fourteen people are injured, six of them police officers, while 41 are arrested.
November 25th: Michael Stone, a Loyalist paramilitary volunteer, is arrested attempting to enter Stormont with a pistol and a bomb. He later admits planning to assassinate Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and is sentenced to 16 years in prison.
March 7th: The third elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly are held, returning a DUP majority (36 seats) over Sinn Fein (28), the UUP (18) and the SDLP (16).
March 7th: The Real IRA attempts to disrupt the elections by shooting dead two off duty British soldiers outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim. They are the first British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement.
March 9th: A PSNI officer is shot dead in County Armagh. The Continuity IRA, a radical splinter group of the Provisional IRA, claims responsibility.
March 26th: Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein) and Ian Paisely (Democratic Unionist Party) meet face to face and agree to power-sharing.
May 7th: Ian Paisley (DUP) and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein) are appointed Northern Ireland’s First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively. Despite their political differences Paisley and McGuinness form an effective working relationship.
June 27th: Two Loyalist paramilitary groups, the UVF and the Red Hand Commandos, decommission and surrender their weapons.
July 31st: Operation Banner, the British Army’s peacekeeping mission in Northern Ireland, formally comes to close.
October 11th: The INLA announces an end to its use of “armed struggle”.
January 6th: The UDA decommissions and surrenders its weapons before an independent panel.
February 6th: The INLA decommissions and surrenders its weapons before an independent panel.
February 22nd: The Real IRA detonates a car bomb outside a court building in Newry, however nobody is killed or seriously injured.
June 15th: British prime minister David Cameron tables the Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday, which confirms that British soldiers opened fire first and shot unarmed civilians. Cameron issues an apology on behalf of the British government.
June 20th: Sectarian riots break out after Loyalists undertake provocative joyrides into Catholic areas of east Belfast. Rioting continues intermittently until mid-July, spreading across Belfast and into other areas including Derry, Newry and Portadown. More than 300 people are injured.
July 15th: Derry is named as the United Kingdom’s City of Culture for the year 2013.
January 26th: Gerry Adams resigns his seat in the British parliament, in order to stand for election in the Republic of Ireland.
May 17th: Queen Elizabeth II undertakes a four day visit to the Republic of Ireland, the first by a reigning British monarch in 100 years.
June 20th: Several hundred members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a Loyalist paramilitary group, enter Nationalist areas of Belfast and incite violence and rioting. These riots spread to towns outside Belfast and continue intermittently until July 15th.
June 26th: Queen Elizabeth II begins a two day visit to Northern Ireland. During this visit she held a private meeting with Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the IRA.
July 12th: Orange Order marches provoke another outbreak of rioting in Belfast. Some 90 PSNI officers are injured and there is considerable damage to public and private property.
September 2nd: Loyalists attack a Republican parade in northern Belfast, triggering another three days of riots.
November 1st: A Real IRA gunman shoots dead a prison officer in County Armagh, apparently in retaliation for his treatment of Republican inmates.
December 3rd: Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the British flag, the Union Jack, on specified days angers Loyalists. It triggers a wave of protests and rioting that continues intermittently through 2013.
February 16th: A football match at Seaview in northern Belfast is cancelled on security advice, following a flag protest outside the ground.
April: Flag protests continue and Northern Ireland reports an economic loss due to declining tourism numbers.
April 8th: Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher dies in seclusion in London. The Northern Ireland media focuses firmly on Thatcher’s refusal to give way to hunger strikers in 1981.
July 12th: Loyalists go on the rampage after Orange Order marchers are denied access to Catholic areas of northern Belfast. Rioting and violence continues for five days and leads to more than 100 injuries and 62 arrests. A DUP politician, Nigel Dodds, is hospitalised after being struck by a brick thrown by Loyalist rioters.
October 25th-29th: Northern Ireland police defuse several letter bombs, posted to senior police, court officials and politicians.
November 20th-24th: Terrorists hijack two drivers and force them to deliver bombs, one to police headquarters in Derry, the other to a shopping square in Belfast. Neither bomb explodes.
December: Dissident IRA members attempt a series of bombings on civilian targets in central Belfast. These attempts either fail or are intercepted by police.
February 17th: Northern Ireland police locate and defuse a bomb in Curryneirin, outside Derry. An anti-Good Friday Republican group takes responsibility.
April 6th: Loyalist political and religious leader Ian Paisley dies in Belfast, aged 88.
January 11th: Arlene Foster becomes the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Northern Ireland’s first female First Minister.
March 21st: Former Provisional IRA leader, Republican politician and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness passes away after a brief illness.