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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Northern Ireland chronology: 2001
The key events in Northern Ireland during 2001. Click on the menu to link to other years.



17 January 2001: RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan says that the loyalist paramilitary UDA had become a loose organisation "lacking central direction and control" and some its members were responsible for a number of killings and for an increase in sectarian attacks against Catholic homes in Northern Ireland.

24 January 2001: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Mandelson resigns from government amid allegations of fresh scandal. John Reid, formerly Scottish Secretary, arrives in Belfast as his successor and the first Catholic holder of the post.

30 January 2001: The Belfast High Court rules that David Trimble's ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending North-South ministerial councils is illegal because it was designed to put pressure on the IRA to decommission weapons. But Mr Justice Kerr adds that Mr Trimble did not have to nominate the Sinn Fein ministers and could use his discretion in who he chose. Mr Trimble announces that an appeal to the decision but insists the ban will remain in place.

4 March 2001: Dissident republicans detonate a car bomb outside the London headquarters of the BBC after warnings are given. There is one minor injury but substantial damage to the corporation's News Centre.

8 March 2001: With Sinn Fein still banned by David Trimble from attending North-South Ministerial meetings, talks in Belfast fail to find a solution to the impasse. But the IRA releases a fresh statement saying that it is entering "further discussions" with the decommissioning body and that the British government "must deliver on its obligations".

22 March 2001: General John de Chastelain confirms that the IRA are in contact with his body and adds that events of the previous weeks led him to believe that "progress can be made".

31 March 2001: Michael McKevitt, the brother-in-law of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, is charged in the Irish Republic with directing terrorism. Mr McKevitt, a member of the 32 Country Sovereignty Movement which has been linked to the dissident Real IRA, is under legislation passed in the wake of the 1998 Omagh bomb.

2 May 2001: Northern Ireland Education Minister Martin McGuinness, one of the principle figures in the modern republican movement, confirms that he was a leading member of the IRA in Derry in the 1970s. Mr McGuinness makes the announcement ahead of his expected appearance at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

4 May 2001: The European Court of Human Rights finds that 10 IRA men shot dead by security forces had their human rights violated - not because of the deaths but because of the failure of the authorities to properly investigate the operations in question.

8 May 2001: UK Prime Minister Tony Blair calls a general election for 7 June. Launching his own campaign and attempting to head off a substantial challenge from the Democratic Unionists, David Trimble tells the UUP that he will resign as First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 1 July if there has been no progress from the IRA on decommissioning.

16 May 2001: The US government declares the dissident republican organisation the "Real IRA" a foreign terrorist organisation. It moves to freeze the assets of any individual or group linked to the paramilitaries in the US.

30 May 2001: Amid growing political pressure for movement and jostling for position in the general election campaign, the independent international arms inspectors, Cyril Ramaphosa and Maarti Ahtisaari, say that they have carried out a third inspection of some IRA arms dumps - and conclude that the weapons remain out of use.

31 May 2001: In a statement coming a week before the general election, the IRA said that it had held four meetings with the arms decommissioning body.

It says that it has honoured every statement it has made - but that the British government continues to renege on two - policing and demilitarisation.

7 June 2001: The general election leads to major gains for the hardline Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein. The UUP remains the largest party but is only one seat ahead of the DUP. The moderate SDLP are pushed into fourth place as Sinn Fein snatch two more seats as they consolidate political control in the west.

The UUP suffers similar damage in the local council elections which see Sinn Fein become the largest single party on Belfast City Council.

14 June 2001: The Court of Appeal in Belfast reserves judgement in David Trimble's appeal against the overturning of his ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending North South meetings. The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Carswell, said that there were "difficult and delicate issues to consider'' and the court would give a ruling as soon as it could.

19 June 2001: Riot police are called in to protect Catholic children going to school in north Belfast after clashes between rival gangs. Violent clashes in the Ardoyne area of Belfast continues into the following week with loyalists and republicans blaming each other.

23 June 2001: David Trimble emerges from the Ulster Unionist Council's annual meeting as the unopposed leader as party opponents choose not to challenge him ahead of his scheduled resignation at the end of the month.

27 June 2001: The RUC fire a plastic bullet amid disturbances in Portadown, scene of the upcoming banned Drumcree parade.

28 June 2001: Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern begin intensive talks aimed at preventing David Trimble resigning as First Minister.

1 July 2001: First Minister David Trimble resigns - but nominates fellow UUP minister Reg Empey as caretaker, triggering a six-week period in which to resolve the impasse over arms.

2 July 2001: The Northern Ireland Parades Commission bans the Orange Order's Drumcree March at Portadown for the third successive year. The mediator between the Orange Order and the residents appeals to loyalist paramilitaries to stay away.

8 July 2001: The annual Drumcree parade near Portadown passes off peacefully after the Orange Order tells its members to disperse from the site. But the organisation's leaders pledge to challenge the Parades Commission under human rights legislation.

9-11 July 2001: Political talks at Weston Park, Staffordshire, fail to find a breakthrough with the parties remaining at loggerheads. The UVF (loyalist-paramilitary) aligned Progressive Unionist Party withdraws from these talks, saying that until republicans set out their terms for decommissioning, its impossible to negotiate with them.

In a separate development, the other main loyalist paramilitaries, the UFF, withdraws support for the Good Friday Agreement, but insists that its ceasefire remains intact.

12 July 2001: Night-long rioting between nationalist protesters and security forces in North Belfast come at the end of the height of the Protestant marching season. Both plastic bullets and water cannon are used and more than 100 police are injured.

13-14 July 2001: Political talks reconvene at Weston Park. Despite rumours that a deal is taking shape, the talks break up with no agreement found.

22-27 July 2001: The British and Irish governments spend the week putting together an intricate package as a "make or break" deal to be presented to the pro-agreement parties. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern insist that it will be the only document on offer and will not be open to negotiation.

30 July 2001: A weekend of sectarian violence ends with the shooting dead of an 18-year-old Protestant man in Glengormley, north of Belfast, as he stood at a roadside with friends. The RUC reports that it has no doubt that the attack was carried out by loyalist gunmen who had assumed that they were attacking a group of Catholic men.

1 August 2001: The British and Irish governments unveil a package of proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock, with the focus on policing reform, demilitarisation, stability of the institutions and a reiteration of the importance of decommissioning. They give the parties less than a week to respond.

6 August 2001: The international arms decommissioning body headed by General John de Chastelain says the IRA has put forward a plan to put its weapons "beyond use". Gen de Chastelain publishes neither a timescale nor details of the plan, but stresses that his commission believes the IRA's proposals "initiates a process that will put IRA arms completely and verifiably beyond use."

None of the major parties meets the deadline of responding in full to the two governments' proposals.

9 August 2001: With three days to go before the deadline for a political deal or a potential collapse of the institutions, the IRA releases a statement confirming the details of what the decommissioning body set out earlier in the week. The organisation reveals that it has had eight meetings with Gen de Chastelain since 8 March to discuss its arms.

The Ulster Unionists stand by their line that they cannot return to power-sharing government with republicans without actual decommissioning from the IRA.

10 August 2001 With no sign that the IRA is about to decommission and no sign that the unionists will accept anything but, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid suspends the devolved institutions for 24 hours starting from Saturday 11th.

12 August Devolution is restored, resetting the clock for a deal by six weeks. Sinn Fein accuses the British government of having caved in to unionist pressure.

14 August The IRA releases a statement withdrawing its offer to put in place a mechanism to put arms beyond use, describing the unionists' actions as "totally unacceptable".

14 August 2001 Three suspected members of the IRA are arrested in Colombia after being allegedly in contact with the Farc rebels who control part of the country.

16 August 2001 Sinn Fein rejects the government's proposed revised plan to carry out police reforms before its formal publication, saying that it fails to put in place a police force that republicans can support.

17 August 2001 The British government publishes revised plans to change the shape of policing in Northern Ireland. The new plan includes substantial changes to the policing board and powers of investigation of police operations.

18 August 2001 Thousands of loyalists join a UDA-organised march along the predominantly Protestant Shankill Road in Belfast to commemorate a senior paramilitary killed during the loyalist feud of 2000.

20 August 2001 The Catholic Church in Ireland officially backs the revised policing plan. The bishops say that they still have some reservations but there is now "real hope for a new beginning in policing".

20 August 2001 The SDLP endorses the policing plan and announces that it will nominate members to join the new policing board. It calls on people from all of Northern Ireland's communities to do the same.

3 September 2001: An earlier dispute over access to the Catholic Holy Cross primary school in Ardoyne erupts into violence. Loyalist demonstrators attempt to stop children reaching the school, saying that republicans are using the journey as a screen to attack their community. The stand-off continues for the rest of the month with no sign of resolution.

6 September 2001: Sean Neeson resigns as leader of the cross-community Alliance Party saying that the party needed a "fresh face" following its drop in support.

17 September 2001: John Hume announces that he is to step down as leader of the SDLP, citing health reasons for his decision. The party's deputy leader Seamus Mallon later announces that he too will step down and not run for the leadership.

18 September 2001: The High Court in Belfast reserves judgement on the UUP's challenge against Sinn Fein's victory in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency at the General Election. Michelle Gildernew won the seat by 53 votes but the UUP has alleged voting irregularities.

19 September: Two days before the deadline for solving the political crisis, the IRA releases a statement saying that it is "intensifying" its engagement with the decommissioning body. The organisation says that it wants to accelerate moves towards a "comprehensive resolution" but that depended on others playing their part.

20 September 2001: The annual BBC survey of public attitudes finds that 41% of those polled want fresh elections to break the political deadlock.

21 September 2001: Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid announces the second technical suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly after a failure to break the deadlock and reinstate a first minister. He insists that it will be the last time that he carries out the technical order.

21 September 2001: The UUP and DUP announce that they will nominate members to the Policing Board.

23 September 2001: David Trimble plans to table to motion to exclude Sinn Fein from the executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

27 September 2001: Nightly rioting in north Belfast escalates with gun fire directed towards the security forces. RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan blames the UDA and warns that there is no "security solution" to the violence other than to get community leaders to act.

28 September 2001: Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid announces that he had prepared the order to declare the UDA ceasefire over but was delaying it because the paramilitary group's leaders had communicated that they accepted the damage that the violence was causing to the peace process.

28 September 2001: Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan is shot dead in his home town of Lurgan, the first journalist to be killed by paramilitaries in the history of the Troubles. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by both the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), claims responsibility for the killing in a call to a Belfast newsroom.

28 September 2001: Mark Durkan becomes the leader-designate of the SDLP after none of his party colleagues challenge him for the leadership.

29 September 2001: The Northern Ireland Office announces the formation of the Policing Board, the new body to oversee the reformed force. The move goes ahead despite Sinn Fein's refusal to endorse the reforms and nominate members to the body.

30 September 2001: Martin McGuinness tells the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis (conference) that more progress can be made in the peace process. Party president Gerry Adams says that terrorism is "ethically indefensible" but recent "huge developments" pointed to a future "free of IRA weapons".

6 October 2001: David Ford is named new leader of the cross-community Alliance party following the resignation of Sean Neeson in September.

8 October 2001: Unionist attempts to exclude Sinn Fein from the executive fail after the SDLP refuses to support the motion. David Trimble announces that he is withdrawing his ministers from the body and they would eventually resign.

18 October 2001: The Ulster Unionists' three ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive resign - putting a seven day deadline on solving the crisis.

22 October 2001: Gerry Adams announces that he and Martin McGuinness have urged the IRA to make a "groundbreaking move" to save the peace process. The statement appears to lay the ground for the IRA to begin decommissioning weapons.

23 October 2001: The IRA announces that it has begun a process of putting arms beyond use in line with an agreement with the Independent International Decommissioning Commission. Hours later the IICD confirms it has witnessed the disposal of arms and describes it as "significant".

24 October 2001: David Trimble renominates UUP ministers to the NI Executive, thereby preventing its collapse. Secretary of State John Reid announces the scaling down of military forces in south Armagh by the removal of two watchtowers and part of a base.

2 November 2001: David Trimble fails to become First Minister after two rebel members of his own party vote against him.

3 November 2001: Pro-agreement parties strike a deal to re-elect David Trimble by redesignating three Alliance Party members as unionists.

4 November: The Royal Ulster Constabulary is renamed The Police Service of Northern Ireland as the first new recruits begin their training.

6 November 2001: David Trimble is elected First Minister and Mark Durkan as Deputy First Minister after a DUP legal challenge fails. Scuffles break out among some MLAs at Stormont following the vote.

11 November 2001: Mark Durkan becomes leader of the SDLP.

12 November 2001: A teenager dies in Belfast after a home-made bomb explodes in his hand amid clashes between several hundred people.

28 November 2001: The Ulster Democratic Party, linked to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association is dissolved.

1 December 2001: David Trimble wins a crucial vote at the Ulster Unionist Council allowing him to set policy over the party's position on IRA decommissioning.

6 December 2001:

The leaking of a draft report by the NI police ombudsman reveals that the RUC had information about a planned terrorist attack 11 days before the 1998 Omagh bombing which left 29 dead.






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