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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Northern Ireland chronology: 2002
The key events in Northern Ireland during 2002. Click on the menu links to go to other years.



1 January 2002: Documents released under the 30 year rule reveal that army chiefs warned Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1971 that internment would be a recruiting ground for the IRA and damage long-term security.

2 January 2002: The USA names five paramilitary groups as illegal organisations: The Continuity IRA, Loyalist Volunteer Force, Orange Volunteers, Red Hand Defenders and the Ulster Defence Association.

4 January 2002: The first death attributable to the Troubles occurs when William Campbell, 19, is killed as a pipe bomb, which he is believed to be handling, explodes.

5 January 2002: Amid continuing violence in north Belfast, the UDA/UFF issue a statement denying involvement but warning others that it will "defend" its community.

7 January 2002: The Colombian authorities investigating three Irishmen seized in the country last year claim that up to 25 republicans may have visited Marxist FARC rebels.

9 January 2002: Violence intensifies in north Belfast with some 500 people involved in rioting, leading the Holy Cross school at the centre of the dispute to be close the following day. Within days more than 80 officers have been injured.

12 January 2002: Catholic postman Danny McColgan, 20, is shot dead as he arrives for work in Rathcoole, north Belfast. The killing is claimed by the Red Hand Defenders. Loyalists make threats against teachers and postal workers, prompting an angry response from first minister David Trimble.

18 January 2002: Thousands attended trade union rallies held in Belfast, Londonderry, Omagh, Enniskillen, Newry, Cookstown and Strabane against sectarianism and paramilitary killings. First minister David Trimble, deputy first minister Mark Durkan and Sinn Fein education minister Martin McGuinness attend the Belfast rally.

21 January 2002: Sinn Fein's four MPs take their offices but not there seats in the Palace of Westminster.

24 January 2002: PSNI chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan rebuts the ombudsman's report into the handling of the Omagh bomb investigation, saying that "the errors, inaccuracies and misunderstandings it contains have also seriously distorted the facts surrounding the bomb and its investigation."

25 January 2002: Colm Murphy becomes the first person to be jailed in connection to the Omagh bomb when he is sentenced to 14 years by a Dublin court for conspiracy to cause an explosion.

27 January 2002: A new political group linked to the thinking of the UDA emerges. John White, formerly of the disbanded Ulster Democratic Party, says that Ulster Political Research Group may give birth to a new political party. The executive reveals that some 350 people are on a waiting list after being forced to flee their homes because of intimidation or attack.

1 February 2002: John Home is awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize in India for being "instrumental in heralding a new era of justice, peace and reconciliation in Ireland".

13 February 2002: Campaigning for Sinn Fein in the Republic ahead of their General Election, Gerry Adams says that Republicans must persuade unionists that their interests would be better served in a united Ireland than they currently are in the United Kingdom.

17 February 2002: Irish premier Bertie Ahern rules out a coalition with Sinn Fein should the party do well at the coming Irish general election. "In our constitution there can only be adherence to one police force, one army," he tells the BBC. "Until Sinn Fein make their position unambiguously clear, then that is not possible, and that is not going to be possible for some time."

3 March 2002: In an interview for BBC On The Record, John Reid says that there is "no inevitability about a united Ireland" but concedes that there is an "insecurity" within the unionist community.

5 March 2002: John Reid reveals that he has held talks with members of the Loyalist Commission in a new bid to end sectarian violence.

9 March 2002: David Trimble is calls for a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK to take place on the same day as next year's Assembly election. He goes on to describe the Irish Republic as a "pathetic, sectarian mono-ethnic, mono-cultural state" and calls for the IRA to continue the decommissioning process.

18 March 2002: The police reveal that there was a break in at the Special Branch offices of Castlereagh Police Station in Belfast. The incident, at one of the most secure police stations in the world, shocks security analysts who immediately speculate whether it was an inside job. Separate investigations are launched by the police and the Northern Ireland Office.

23 March 2002: Sporadic rioting continues in north Belfast with at least five police officers injured. A woman is injured when a blast bomb hits her car.

24 March 2002: PSNI chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan says he would be "most surprised" if paramilitaries or civilians were responsible for the break-in at the Special Branch' office at Castlereagh.

30 March 2002: Several hundred police officers are involved in an operation to arrest six people in connection with the break-in at Special Branch headquarters. The group includes at least one senior republican, prompting a furious response from Sinn Fein. Police later say their investigation leads them most strongly towards the Provisional IRA as being behind the break-in.

4 April 2002: Continuing riots in Belfast see loyalists attack police with dozens of small pipe and petrol bombs.

5 April 2002: The Police Service of Northern Ireland has its first passing-out parade with 44 new recruits. trained under the taking to the streets with new uniforms. Democratic Unionists complain after the head of the Irish Republic's police force, Pat Byrne, is invited to speak. The UDA issue a statement through political representatives saying that it is trying to be constructive in areas where with high sectarian tensions.

8 April 2002: After weeks of speculation, the IRA puts a second tranche of its arsenal "beyond use". While there are no public details as to the types of arms, the quantity or the manner in which they were disposed of, the independent international arms inspector General John de Chastelain described the event as "substantial". In its statement, the IRA deny all involvement in the Castlereagh break-in.

13 April 2002: More than 2,500 republicans gather in Dublin for a special commemorative meeting. Gerry Adams tells the gathering that republicans must "reach out to make peace with those we have hurt and those who have hurt us". Leading republicans stress that it's a "one-off" tribute to those who died during the Troubles, but deny suggestions that it's a de facto retirement ceremony for the IRA.

16 April 2002: Dissident republicans are blamed for a bomb blast at Northern Ireland's police training college.

17 April 2002: A taxi driver is shot dead in Donaghmore, County Tyrone. Police refuse to speculate but it emerges that there had been a history of conflict between the man's family and the IRA.

19 April 2002: The Police Service of Northern Ireland say that they have found the names of senior Conservative party members in IRA intelligence files, though it is not clear whether or not the document is recent or who is on the list.

23 April 2002: Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams refuses to attend a congressional committee hearing in the United States which is investigating suspected links between the Marxist guerrillas in Colombia and the IRA.

24 April 2002: As many as 15 members of the IRA have visited Colombia in the last five years to meet with Marxist rebels, a US congressional committee hears.

25 April 2002: Irish premier Bertie Ahern calls the republic's general election for 17 May.

29 April 2002: The British and Irish governments sign a deal to improve cross-border policing.

29-30 April 2002: Amid speculation over continuing violence in Belfast, the UUP loses a motion put before the Assembly on the state of the IRA ceasefire. However, the SDLP's Mark Durkan says that he believes the IRA are "still active". The UUP suggest that they may consider taking further action to pressure Sinn Fein.

1 May 2002: Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid says that a ceasefire isn't enough from the IRA, there needs to also be a "sense that the war is over". Dr Reid said that he believed the leadership were committed to the peace process but all paramilitary activity had to end.

5 May 2002: One man is shot and 28 others injured as rioting flares again in north Belfast.

6 May 2002: The Progressive Unionists' David Ervine says that the continuing violence, growing doubts among loyalists and uncertainty over the IRA has left the peace process in a "substantial and serious crisis". The following night guns are used again in rioting in north Belfast.

11 May 2002: US President George W Bush's special adviser on Northern Ireland, Richard Haas, warns republicans that suspected connections with Colombia would have "extremely serious consequences".

10 May 2002: The leader of the Progressive Unionist Party David Ervine says that he believes that the UVF, the paramilitary group to which his party is linked, is rearming.

15 May 2002: Convicted loyalist paramilitary leader Johnny Adair is released from jail for a second time. As he leaves prison, his spokesman says that Adair "will be a force for good in this province".

17 May 2002: Bertie Ahern and his Fianna Fail party sweep to victory at the Irish general election, returning to power just short of an overall majority. As predicted, Sinn Fein also do well, returning five members to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

29 May 2002: Hugh Orde, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in charge of the day-to-day running of the Stevens Inquiry into collusion, is named the new chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

31 May 2002: The Alliance Party announces that it will back Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey for Lord Mayor, a move that eventually clinches his election on 5 June. Elsewhere, sectarian clashes that will last for a week begin between loyalist and nationalist groups in east Belfast.

2 June 2002: Continuing clashes in east Belfast result in three people suffering gun shot wounds. The police say that members of the IRA and the UVF are involved in the violence. Acting chief constable Colin Cramphorn says that the two factions are "sleepwalking into an abyss". On the evening of 3 June some 1,000 people are reported to be involved in fighting along the border between loyalist and nationalist communities, leading to five people being wounded by gun shots.

5 June 2002: Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and David Ervine of the PUP hold talks at Stormont aimed at ending the violence in east Belfast.

6 June 2002: David Trimble calls for the Parades Commission to be scrapped and replaced with a tribunal-based system to protect the rights of all sides.

10 June 2002: Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey attends the opening session of the Presbyterian General Assembly.

14 June 2002: Senior Ulster Unionists call for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from power-sharing bodies after security sources tell the BBC that the IRA had tested new weapons in Colombia. While party leader David Trimble says the allegations are serious, he later defeats hardliners' attempts to force him withdraw from the executive.

14 June 2002: Loyalist paramilitaries issue a statement saying they will not start violence against republicans in an effort to defuse tensions in parts of Belfast.

19 June 2002: A BBC Panorama investigation reveals fresh allegations of past collusion between members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

20 June 2002:Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin blames nationalists for starting violence in Derry. He says that there was a "greater onus" on his community to prove "happy and peaceful co-existence" with Protestant neighbours.

26 June 2002: The police in Northern Ireland warn leading loyalists, members of the judiciary and politicians that their names have been found on a computer seized during searches of homes in republican areas in the wake of the break-in at the Castlereagh police headquarters.

29 June 2002: Fresh sectarian violence breaks out in east Belfast, leaving a number of police officers injured.

1 July 2000: Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey lays a wreath at the City Hall cenotaph to commemorate the war dead of the Battle of the Somme, an important Protestant/unionist tradition. Elsewhere, the police blame republicans for orchestrating an attack by 50 masked youths on a police station in County Fermanagh.

2 July 2002: The Parades Commission bans part of the route of the Drumcree Orange Order parade at Portadown, the fifth successive year of the ban.

4 July 2002: Amid continuing tension over rising paramilitary violence, David Trimble demands action from the Secretary of State, including a ruling on the state of the IRA ceasefire. Prime Minister Tony Blair responds by pledging action before Parliament rises. Some unionists predict the power-sharing institutions will collapse unless Sinn Fein are excluded.

7 July 2002: Police use water cannon after violence erupts at the Orange Order's Drumcree parade. Some 24 police officers are injured. The Orange Order condemns the violence.

11 - 13 July 2002: The height of this year's marching season. Sporadic violence in parts of Belfast but police describe it as less serious than previous years.

17 July 2002: The IRA apologises to the "non-combatant" victims of its campaign of violence throughout the Troubles. Elsewhere, the dissident Real IRA claims an attack in which two police officers escape injury after their vehicle is hit by an explosive device near Downpatrick, County Down.

21 July 2002: A night of sectarian violence engulfs north Belfast, described by police as a "catalogue of mayhem". Early in the evening a Protestant teenager is shot and wounded in one area as the two communities clash. Later, 19-year-old Catholic Gerard Lawlor dies after being shot a number of times as he walked home. The attack is claimed by the Red Hand Commando who say it was a "measured military response".

24 July 2002: The Prime Minister tells MPs that a ceasefire should mean an end to targeting, training and the development or acquisition of weapons. Northern Ireland Secretary would give "weight" to these factors when making his decisions on the activities of paramilitary groups.

25 July 2002: The deputy chair of the policing board, Denis Bradley, says that the force is not doing enough to tackle loyalist violence. The House of Lords dismisses the Democratic Unionists' challenge to the controversial re-election of the First and Deputy First Minister last year.

21 September 2002: Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble says his party will withdraw from the power-sharing executive at Stormont on 18 January if republicans do not demonstrate they have left violence behind for good. The move followed a compromise with party hardliners at a meeting of its ruling council.

23 September 2002: Nationalists condemn David Trimble's threat to quit the executive, with SDLP leader Mark Durkan saying the peace process was now in crisis.

25 September 2002: The UDA expels one of its commanders, Johnny Adair, saying he is no longer "acceptable" to the organisation. The explusion comes after Adair forged links with the rival LVF.

4 October 2002: Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont are raided as part of a major police investigation into intelligence gathering by republicans. Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble warns that the assembly may not survive if action is not taken by the British Government against Sinn Fein.

6 October 2002: Sinn Fein's head of administration at Stormont is remanded in custody charged with having documents likely to be of use to terrorists. The charges are in connection with alleged IRA intelligence gathering at Stormont.

7 October 2002: First Minister David Trimble says he will delay a decision on withdrawing his ministers from government until he meets the prime minister later in the week. The DUP tables a motion calling for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from government. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the reimposition of direct rule could leave the Good Friday Agreement "dead in the water".

8 October 2002: David Trimble announces he will put his ministers out of the executive in seven days unless the government proposes the explusion of Sinn Fein. He said it was "no longer sustainable" to be in a power-sharing government with republicans following allegations of a spying ring at Stormont.

10 October 2002: Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness tells supporters the IRA will not fall into a "trap". "I'm delighted we have an organisation which understands the political dynamics of the peace process," he says.

14 October 2002: John Reid announced the suspension of devolution and the return of direct rule by London ministers from midnight. As direct rule returns, Church of Ireland Archbishop Robin Eames appeals to the IRA to: "Give us the reassurance that the war is over for good. Then let us move on with a new confidence across the community. But let us move on together". Leading Belfast Republican Martin Meehan says the IRA's campaign is at an end. Gerry Adams does not endorse the statement. "Certainly for many republicans the war is over and those who see it like that will say so. But what I have to deal with is the management of a conflict resolution process".

16 October 2002: A former soldier tells the Bloody Sunday Inquiry his colleagues fired without justification.

17 October 2002: Tony Blair tells Northern Ireland's leaders they are at a fork in the road. "We cannot carry on with the IRA half in, half out of this process. Another inch by inch negotiation won't work. Symbolic gestures, important in their time, no longer build trust. It's time for acts of completion." Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness says the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement would put huge pressure on all armed groups in Northern Ireland to disband - but that it was "highly unlikely" that paramilitaries would disarm under the terms set by unionists.

24 October 2002: John Reid becomes chairman of the Labour Party. Paul Murphy is named the new Northern Ireland Secretary.

30 October 2002: Martin McGuinness tells a BBC documentary: "My war is over. My job as a political leader is to prevent war. My job is to continue to ensure a political set of circumstances which will never again see British soldiers or members of the IRA lose their lives as a result of political conflict." The IRA announces it has ended contact with the international decommissioning body.

31 October 2002: Police say they have smashed a major loyalist paramilitary extortion racket based on the Belfast building trade.

4 November 2002: Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey holds a reception for the Royal British Legion.

7 November 2002: Police arrest a civil servant who had access to David Trimble's office at Stormont, in relation to IRA spying allegations.

25 November 2002: The government says former paramilitary prisoners may be allowed to sit on district policing boards.

9 December 2002: David Trimble says he wants closer links with the Conservative Party but rules out a merger.

13 December 2002: David Trimble says his party does not accept policing should be devolved in the near future.

19 December 2002: David Trimble walks out of multi-party talks after a leaked Irish government paper says the IRA are still active.

20 December 2002: The Police Service of Northern Ireland reveals it believes there was a cover-up by government and the Catholic Church to prevent the unmasking of a priest involved in the 1972 Claudy bombing which killed nine.

27 December 2002: Jonathan Stewart, 22, a close relative of one of Jonny Adair's former associates but who had no paramilitary links, was shot dead by a hooded gunman at a house party in north Belfast. Adair's supporters are blamed for the killing.






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