The Path to Peace: A timeline of the peace process in the 1990s

From bomb attacks to ceasefires, decommissioning and roundtable talks

November 1990: NI secretary Peter Brooke says Britain has no "selfish strategic or economic interest" in Northern Ireland and would accept unification by consent.

March 1991: The UUP, DUP, SDLP and Alliance Party agree to roundtable talks that will become known as the Brooke/Mayhew talks. Sinn Féin is not included. Meanwhile, Martin McGuinness has secretly met the MI6's Michael Oatley in a bid to end the conflict.

July 1992: Unionists attend talks with the Irish and British governments in London and UUP leader James Molyneaux later leads a UUP delegation to Dublin for talks.

December 1993: Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and British prime minister John Major announce the Downing Street Declaration, which sets out a charter for peace and reconciliation and accepts the principle of self-determination.


January 1994: US president Bill Clinton approves a visa for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to enter the US in a move which is seen as a way of smoothing the way to an IRA ceasefire.

August 1994: The IRA announces its ceasefire which will be followed in October by the Combined Loyalist Military Command's ceasefire.

November 1995: Taoiseach John Bruton and British prime minister announce the Joint Communique, which sets out a twin-track initiative designed to lead to all-party talks by February. It involves the setting up of an international body to examine decommissioning. Former US senator George Mitchell is appointed chairman of the body and will go on to play a key role in the peace process.

February 1996: Two people are killed and 100 injured when an IRA bomb explodes in the Docklands area of London, ending the IRA ceasefire and removing Sinn Féin from the talks process.

February 1997: Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick is the last British soldier to be killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland.

May 1997: Tony Blair becomes British prime minister and appoints Mo Mowlam as his Northern Ireland secretary.

July 1997: The IRA renews its ceasefire, following talks with British officials, which leads to the UK Unionist Party and the DUP boycotting talks.

January 1998: Mo Mowlam meets loyalist inmates at the Maze prison and urges them to support the peace process.

April 1998: The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, is signed, after intensive talks. It paves the way for a power-sharing devolved assembly in Northern Ireland, police reforms and a military scale-down. It aims to achieve decommissioning of paramilitary arms within two years. The DUP opposes the deal. The IRA says it has no plans for decommissioning.

May 1998: Referendums on the Belfast Agreement get the support of 71 per cent of voters in Northern Ireland and 94 per cent in the Republic. The NI Assembly is elected one month later but disagreements over arms decommissioning mean it cannot function.

August 1998: The Real IRA dissident group kills 29 people and two unborn babies when they bomb Omagh town centre. This is the largest single atrocity of the conflict.

October 1998: SDLP leader John Hume and UUP leader David Trimble are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

November 1999: After months of disagreement over decommissioning, the IRA says it will talk to Gen John de Chastelain, head of the international arms decommissioning body, if the power-sharing executive takes office.

November 1999: The NI Assembly meets and power-sharing begins. David Trimble becomes first minister and the SDLP's Séamus Mallon is deputy first minister.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times