A chronology of Northern Ireland peace process and community relations policy:
22 February 1995: Framework Documents
“The declaration that we have agreed today shows the commitment of the two Governments for peace and democracy and against violence. Its objective is to set a framework for peace, a framework that reflects our responsibilities to both communities in a way that is fully compatible with the undertakings that we have both given and with the objectives of the talks process.”
-John Major, Downing Street Declaration
10 April 1998: Good Friday/Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement states that the signatory parties “affirm their commitment to the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community”.
25 June 1998: Northern Ireland Assembly elections
The first elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly return the UUP and SDLP as the largest parties.
15 August 1998: Omagh bombing
“The aim of those bombers was, as I say, not just to kill innocent people but to strike at the very heart of the peace process. The best response that we can give, therefore, is not to abandon the Good Friday agreement but, on the contrary, to carry it forward vigorously, to deny these people the very objective they seek, and to continue to work for a better future for Northern Ireland that puts the past behind us. [Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister] will also continue to have our support in implementing the Good Friday agreement and in carrying through the efforts of this Government and the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) to bring lasting peace.”
-William Hague (Conservative Party), speaking in House of Commons in aftermath of Omagh Bombing
19 November 1998: The Northern Ireland Act
Section 75(1) and (2) creates a statutory duty for a public authority: “in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group”.
11 February 2000: Northern Ireland Assembly suspended
14 October 2002: Northern Ireland Assembly suspended
The Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended. Meanwhile, the “Harbison Report” is published and indicates that current good relations policy is not significantly improving tensions between communities in Northern Ireland.
January 2003: A Shared Future initiative launched
Under Direct Rule administration, the Community Relations Unit of the Office of the First and deputy First Minister launches policy document, “A Shared Future: Improving Relations in Northern Ireland”.
26 November 2003: Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly return the DUP and Sinn Féin as the largest parties.
March 2005: A Shared Future policy published
“A Shared Future: The Policy and Strategic Framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland” is published by Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Paul Murphy:
5 May 2005: Northern Ireland Assembly elections
April 2006: A Shared Future: First Triennial Action Plan
Under Direct Rule administration, OFMdFM publishes “A Shared Future: First Triennial Action Plan 2006–2009”. The action plan is named “Making it happen: Implementing the policy and strategic framework for Good Relations in Northern Ireland”.
13 October 2006: St Andrews Agreement
An agreement is reached at St Andrews and the Northern Ireland Act 2006 is passed. The St Andrews Agreement states that “The British government has also agreed to take forward a number of measures to build confidence in both communities and to pursue a shared future.”
7 March 2007: Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are held, which returns Sinn Féin and the DUP as the largest parties. The subsequent Programme for Government (Northern Ireland Executive) states that ‘equality, fairness, inclusion and the promotion of good relations will be watchwords for all our policies’.
4 April 2007: Bertie Ahern-Ian Paisley handshake
“We must do our best to put behind us the terrible wounds of the past and work together to build a new relationship between our two traditions.”
-Bertie Ahern, Ireland Taoiseach
January 2008: Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) initiative announced
OFMdFM announce plans to produce a “Cohesion, Sharing and Integration” (CSI) document.
September 2008: CSI progress
The deputy First Minister informs the Northern Ireland Assembly that the draft strategy for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration will be brought before the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.
28 October 2008: CSI DUP draft
DUP published a draft version of CSI on its party’s website.
16 September 2009: CSI Sinn Féin draft
Sinn Féin published a draft version of CSI on its party’s website.
February 2010: CSI final draft prepared
OFMdFM indicate that a final draft of CSI is being prepared.
July 2010: CSI consultation launched
UUP, SDLP and Alliance parties criticise CSI for “lacking vision”.
October 2010: CSI CRC response
November 2010: CSI consultation closes
OFMdFM indicate that over 200 responses have been received for CSI. Consultation is officially closed on 5 November 2010.
February 2012: Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 1)
Community Relations Council published the first issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report:
January 2013: Unresolved issues named
First Minister Peter Robinson reveals unresolved issues are primarily in regards to flags, parades and dealing with the past.
29 January 2013: Alliance Party blueprint
For Everyone: The Alliance Party Blueprint for an Executive Strategy to Build a Shared and Better Future
Alliance publishes party policy document on community relations, “For Everyone: The Alliance Party Blueprint for an Executive Strategy to Build a Shared and Better Future”. Full version; Executive Summary.
March 2013: Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 2)
Community Relations Council published the second issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report:
May 2013: Together: Building a United Community (TBUC) initiative launched
OFMdFM launched cross-community initiatives and pledge the publication of policy document, “Together: Building a United Community”. Another all-party Working Group to be established, but this one to be headed by an independent chairperson.
July 2013: Haass-O’Sullivan Talks initiated
Creation of the Panel of Parties in the Northern Ireland Executive http://panelofpartiesnie.com/
September 2013: CRC submission to Haass-O’Sullivan Talks
Community Relations Council submission to Panel of Parties:
December 2013: Haass-O’Sullivan Talks result
A result of the Haass-O’Sullivan Talks: “A Proposed Agreement on Parades, Select Commemorations, and Related Protests; Flags and Emblems; and Contending with the Past”.
March 2014: Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 3)
Community Relations Council published the third issue of Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report:
17 November 2015: A Fresh Start
After ten weeks of intensive cross party talks at Stormont House, the Northern Ireland executive and the UK and Irish governments agreed a set of actions to address the two key themes the talks were convened to address:
- to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement
- to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity
“A Fresh Start: the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan” builds on previous political agreements and brings closer the goal of a Northern Ireland where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger.
14 January 2016: A Fresh Start and Stormont House Agreements—Progress Report
A progress report on the Fresh Start plan is published.
5 May 2016: Northern Ireland Assembly elections
The fifth election since the establishment of the devolved assembly in 1998 returns the DUP and Sinn Féin as the two largest parties. The roles of First and Deputy First Minister are assumed by the first female leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, respectively.
20 June 2016: Establishment of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition
The First and Deputy First Minister announce their membership of the commission that seeks to explore and acknowledge the differing cultural identities that exist in Northern Irish society, through recommendations to resolve issues on flags, murals, language, identity, media and emblems within sport.
23 June 2016: Referendum on UK membership of the EU (“Brexit”)
Northern Ireland votes to remain in the European Union, with 55.8% of the region voting to remain and 44.2% voting to leave.
19 July 2016: Executive Action Plan for Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime
The executive publishes a plan to tackle continued paramilitary activity in communities. The plan seeks to achieve four long-term outcomes: (1) to increase public support and confidence in the justice system; (2) to live in safer communities; (3) to support those who wish to move away from paramilitary activities and structures; and (4) to demonstrate that paramilitarism has no place in Northern Ireland.
2 September 2016: Divided Society project
The launch of a digitised archive project of over a quarter of a million periodicals and posters relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland during the decade 1990-2000 to show, according to the First Minister, “there is so much in our history that continues to impact on our present, but it can also provide important lessons and insights to help shape our future.”
January 2017: Collapse of power sharing
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, citing the DUP’s handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive, marriage equality and Irish language legislation, resigns.
2 March 2017: Snap Assembly election
The election returns the DUP and Sinn Féin as the two largest parties, with the position of First Minister again filled by Arlene Foster and that of Deputy First Minister by Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin. The Executive remains suspended despite the election.
23 March 2017: Passing of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness dies on 21 March 2017, at age 66. His funeral is attended by thousands, including DUP leader Arlene Foster.
10 April 2018: 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement
Two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland celebrates the commitment to peace and progress.
October 2018: The Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Volume 5)
Ulster University publishes a report to highlight the challenges which must be overcome to achieve peace and protect the peace process.
10 July 2019: Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019
Passed into law by Westminster, the Act intends to prevent another assembly election from occurring and ensure services are maintained during the period of devolution. It provides an extension to the government formation process until 13 January 2020.
18 April 2019: Death of journalist Lyra McKee
The journalist is fatally shot by dissident republicans during rioting in Derry-Londonderry; it is the first time a journalist is killed in the UK in almost ten years. The DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, Alliance Party, SDLP and Green Party release a joint statement in the aftermath, describing the death of McKee as “an attack of all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes [as part of a] futile act to destroy the progress made over the last twenty years.”
5 September 2019: Outcomes Delivery Plan
In the absence of an Executive, the Northern Ireland Civil Service publishes a plan to ensure that “the operational business of government is discharged as effectively as possible and in a coordinated manner.”
23 August 2019: T:BUC Annual Update
The paper reports on the progress made in cross-community relations through the Together: Building a United Community Strategy. The Northern Ireland Good Relations Indicators show significant progress in community relations.
11 January 2020: Re-formation of the Government
After 1,090 days without a devolved administration in Northern Ireland, the Executive is re-established, with Arlene Foster as First Minister and Michelle O’Neill as Deputy First Minister.
13 January 2020: Same-sex marriage is legalised in Northern Ireland
Amendments made to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 stated that if a Stormont Executive was not in place by 21 October 2019, then the government would be required to change abortion laws and legalise same sex marriage in Northern Ireland. Such laws were actualised on 13 January 2020.
31 January 2020: The UK exits the EU
Northern Ireland leaves the European Union with the rest of the United Kingdom, but remains in the single market and customs union for up to four years after the transition period. As a result, there is no hard border or customs checks between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
3 August 2020: Death of John Hume
Former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, dies on 3rd August, at age 83. A funeral mass was held at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry/Londonderry. Among the many tributes was that from former US senator, George Mitchell, who chaired the multi-party talks from 1995-1998:
“[John Hume] was I think, as most people acknowledge, one of the great persons in all of Irish history … who devoted his life to the cause of peace in Northern Ireland. I felt that he was the architect of the process that culminated in the agreement of 1998, known as the Belfast Agreement or Good Friday Agreement. He conceived the separate structures in which the three principal relationships could be discussed, settled, among themselves … Many of the unionists disagreed with him, of course. Many nationalists disagreed with him. But not one of them, to my knowledge or mind, doubted his sincerity, his commitment to the objective, his often repeated statement that Northern Ireland had to be for both unionists and nationalists, and it had to be done in a way that was peaceful.”