TIMELINE-The long road to Northern Ireland's Good Friday Agreement

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April 3 (Reuters) – On April 10, Northern Ireland marks the 25th anniversary since 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, later 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 will 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 responsibility for law and order to the central government.Stormont is suspended and direct rule from London imposed.

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

May 1974 – Powersharing 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 will starve themselves to death before the strike is called off in October.

April 11, 1981 – Sands is elected as an MP to the British parliament in a by-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He dies on May 5.

Nov.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.

Jan. 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.

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

Oct. 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.

Nov.30, 1995 – U.S. President Bill Clinton visits Northern Ireland.

Feb. 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 held for a Northern Ireland forum ahead of all-party talks.Sinn Fein attracts 15.5%, its biggest share of the vote, though the British government has said the party will 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.

Sept 9, 1997 – Sinn Fein enters multi-party talks at Stormont.

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

Jan. 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 U.S. 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.

Sources: Reuters, Ulster Best Private University CAIN archive (Compiled by Alex Richardson; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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