Timeline: Long road to Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement

Northern Ireland is to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10.

FILE- In this file photo dated Friday, April 10, 1998, posing together after signing the Good Friday Agreement, with right to left, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, after they signed the agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. Many of the central architects gathered in Northern Ireland Tuesday April 10, 2018, to mark its 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord which ended three decades of sectarian violence. (AP Photo)
In this file photo dated Friday, April 10, 1998, posing together after signing the Good Friday Agreement, right to left are then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, US Senator George Mitchell, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern [AP Photo]

On April 10, Northern Ireland marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended three decades of conflict in the British-ruled province.

Following are some key developments in the history of the province and the peace process:

1921 – Ireland is partitioned, with the southern 26 counties becoming the independent Irish Free State, which later became the Irish Republic, and the northern six remaining under British rule. The new Northern Ireland parliament, at Stormont outside Belfast, is dominated by pro-British Protestant “unionists”, who would control it for the next 50 years.

1968 – A civil rights campaign by Catholics protesting against discrimination gathers momentum. Sectarian rioting erupts in Belfast, Londonderry and elsewhere.

August 1969 – As civil unrest worsens, British troops are deployed for the first time.

March 30, 1972 – With violence intensifying, the unionist government at Stormont refuses to hand over the responsibility of law and order to the central government. Stormont is suspended and direct rule from London imposed.

December 9, 1973 – After a year of talks and elections for a new Northern Ireland assembly in June, the Sunningdale Agreement is announced, establishing a power-sharing government in Belfast. Unionists object to elements of the deal meant to foster cooperation with the Irish Republic.

May 1974 – Power sharing collapses amid hardening unionist opposition, violence and a general strike and direct rule resumes.

March 1, 1981 – Bobby Sands, the leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Maze Prison, refuses food, beginning a new hunger strike by republican prisoners demanding “political” status. Ten of them would starve themselves to death before the strike is called off in October.

April 11, 1981 – Sands is elected as a member of the British Parliament in a by-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He dies on May 5.

November 15, 1985 – Britain and Ireland sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the most significant development in relations since partition. Both agree there will be no change in Northern Ireland’s status without the consent of the majority of its citizens, while the Irish government is given a consultative role in the province’s administration for the first time.

January 11, 1988 – John Hume, leader of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, then the leading party among Catholic voters, begins a series of talks with Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA’s political ally Sinn Fein.

August 31, 1994 – The IRA declares a “complete cessation of military activities”.

October 13, 1994 – The Combined Loyalist Military Command, speaking on behalf of the main loyalist groups the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), also announces a ceasefire.

November 30, 1995 – US President Bill Clinton visits Northern Ireland.

February 9, 1996 – The IRA ends its ceasefire with a bomb attack at South Quay in London’s Docklands, killing two people.

May 30, 1996 – Elections are held for a Northern Ireland forum in advance of all-party talks. Sinn Fein attracts 15.5 percent, its biggest share of the vote, though the British government says the party would be excluded from talks unless the IRA ceasefire is restored.

May 1, 1997 – Tony Blair is elected British Prime Minister in a landslide victory for his left-of-centre Labour Party.

July 20, 1997 – The IRA renews its ceasefire.

September 9, 1997 – Sinn Fein enters multiparty talks at Stormont.

October 13, 1997 – Blair meets Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for the first time.

January 9, 1998 – Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam visits the Maze Prison to meet UDA prisoners in an attempt to change their recent decision to end their support for the peace process. She succeeds.

March 26, 1998 – Talks chairman George Mitchell, a US senator from Maine, sets an April 9 deadline to reach a deal.

April 10, 1998 – After negotiations continue through the night, the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, is signed.

Source: Reuters