The road to Ulster peace: Death and terror tactics heralded by bomb blast

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The Independent Online
The last IRA ceasefire, which had fostered 17 months of peace and hope on the streets of Ulster, ended at 7.02pm on 9 February last year when terrorists detonated a huge bomb in London's Docklands.

Two died in that blast and the deaths, bombings and tit-for-tat murders have continued unabated. The latest killing happened on Wednesday when a loyalist gunman shot 18-year-old Catholic Bernadette Martin she slept.

In between, the tension has twice been brought to boiling point by the insistence of Orangemen that they be allowed to parade through streets now peopled by Catholics.

For two years running, the intransigence of both sides has been played out on the streets of the small town of Drumcree. In July 1996, there was violence and rioting after the Royal Ulster Constabulary allowed the Orangemen to march. This year saw the worst scenes of disorder in the province for years when the Orangemen were again allowed to march.

Immediately after the Docklands bombing, which caused an estimated pounds 400m in damage, it became obvious that IRA sleepers had been preparing for some time for the ceasefire to fail. One of them, Ed O'Brien, 21, died when the semtex bomb he was carrying went off on a bus in Aldwych, central London.

The following month, terror tactics in the capital continued when two bombs underneath Hammersmith bridge failed to go off. Four weeks later, a small device was detonated in an empty house in Earls Court, west London. In June, a huge bomb devastated Manchester's Arndale Centre. More than 200 people were injured.

In July 1996, an IRA cell was thwarted in its attempts to reduce London to chaos by bombing strategically important electricity sub-stations in and around the capital. On 13 July 1996, violence resumed in Northern Ireland when a huge car bomb devastated a hotel in Enniskillen, injuring 17. After a brief lull, the violence continued in October when two car bombs went off at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, the army's Northern Ireland headquarters. One soldier died and 31 people were injured.

The spiral of violence continued this year. In February Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot dead at a checkpoint. In March, two bombs were set off at Wilmslow railway station in Greater Manchester at the start of a campaign of massive disruption on motorways and railways, culminating in the abandonment of the Grand National after a coded bomb warning.

The shootings, and the discovery of a 1,000lb bomb in west Belfast earlier in the month, led many to believe the IRA was planning to escalate its campaign, not wind it down.

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