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A BREAKTHROUGH IN BELFAST

Key Dates in a Troubled Past

April 11, 1998

1920: Ireland is partitioned. Six northeastern counties remain part of United Kingdom, with some self-government; southern 26 counties also given some self-government, but reject action and begin fighting for complete independence.

1921: Southern counties receive dominion status (self-governing country).

1937: Southern counties adopt new constitution, dissolving all remaining links with Great Britain. But the partitioning of Ireland remains a contentious issue for decades.

Oct. 5, 1968: Roman Catholics' protests over apparent governmental favoritism of Protestants turn violent. Police attack civil rights marchers in Londonderry.

Aug. 12-15, 1969: Rioting breaks out in west Belfast. British troops deployed as peacekeepers.

December 1969: New "Provisional" IRA formed, initially to defend Catholic areas, but soon to go on offensive against police and soldiers.

Aug. 9, 1971: Parliament orders army to arrest, intern IRA suspects without trial, a disastrous policy that fuels Catholic support for IRA.

September 1971: Formation of Ulster Defense Association, umbrella for Protestant gangs that kill hundreds of Catholics in coming decades.

Jan. 30, 1972: Army kills 13 Catholics in day that becomes known as "Bloody Sunday."

March 24, 1972: British government abolishes Parliament, assumes "direct rule" from London.

July 21, 1972: IRA kills nine, wounds 130 with 22 bombs in Belfast; dubbed "Bloody Friday."

May 14-28, 1974: Power-sharing attempt fails. Three car bombs kill 31 in Irish Republic. Direct rule resumes.

April 9, 1981: Bobby Sands, leader of hunger strike in Maze prison, elected to British Parliament.

Nov. 15, 1985: British and Irish prime ministers sign Anglo-Irish Agreement giving Irish Republic role in shaping British policy in Northern Ireland. Protestants infuriated.

Oct. 23-31, 1993: Worst week of violence in Northern Ireland since early 1970s. IRA bomb kills nine Protestants. Pro-British gangs kill 13.

Dec. 15, 1993: British and Irish prime ministers offer Sinn Fein place in negotiations if IRA renounces violence.

Aug. 31, 1994: IRA declares "complete cessation of military operations."

Dec. 9, 1994: British government opens "exploratory" dialogue with Sinn Fein, and UDA and Volunteer Force representatives.

Nov. 28, 1995: Two governments appoint former Sen. George Mitchell to resolve disarmament debate that has deadlocked peace process.

June 10, 1996: Current talks begin, chaired by Mitchell.

April 10, 1998: Agreement reached.

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