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The long and arduous road to paramilitary decommissioning

AUGUST 31, 1994: The Provisional IRA announces a “complete cessation of military operations”.

JANUARY 26, 1996: Former US senator George Mitchell publishes a report calling for the removal of weapons from all loyalist and republican groups and a commitment from all sides entering peace talks to principles of non-violence.

FEBRUARY 9, 1996: The IRA ceasefire ends with a bomb in London's Dockland which kills two people and causes millions of pounds of damage.

JULY 20, 1997: The IRA reinstates its ceasefire.

APRIL 10, 1998: The Good Friday Agreement is signed, which looks forward to the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons.

DECEMBER, 1998: The first act of decommissioning under the scheme sees the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) decommission a small quantity of arms. But the move is soon dismissed as a cosmetic exercise given the amount of weaponry involved and because the group continues its involvement in violence.

NOVEMBER 27, 1999: The Ulster Unionist Council backs proposals to go into a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein on the basis that IRA decommissioning will follow.

DECEMBER 2, 1999: The power-sharing executive, featuring Martin McGuinness as Education Minister, meets for the first time after 20 months of delay and controversy.

FEBRUARY 11, 2000: Just two months later Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson signs an order suspending the Assembly after a failure to secure IRA disarmament.

MAY 30, 2000: Devolution is restored after the Ulster Unionists agree to go back into government with Sinn Fein on understanding that IRA weapons will be decommissioned.

JULY 1, 2001: Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble resigns as first minister over the continuing arms impasse.

AUGUST 6, 2001: General John de Chastelain, head of the international arms decommissioning body, says the IRA has put forward a disarmament plan.

AUGUST 10, 2001: With no sign of the IRA about to decommission, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid announces the first of two successive Assembly suspensions.

OCTOBER 23, 2001: In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in America, the arrest in August of three suspected IRA men in Colombia, and with political pressure mounting on the future of the Good Friday Agreement, the IRA begins decommissioning.

APRIL 8, 2002: The IRA announces it has put a second tranche of its arsenal beyond use.

OCTOBER 14, 2002: Allegations of an IRA spy ring at Stormont sparks the collapse of the institutions.

FEBRUARY 20, 2003: The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) dumps 18 pipe bombs at playing fields off Belfast's Crumlin Road and alerts the authorities. But it denies it was an act of decommissioning. The move is thought to be linked to internal feuds in the group.

MAY 1, 2003: Prime Minister Tony Blair calls for clarity on the IRA's arms position.

OCTOBER 29, 2003: The IICD confirms the IRA has disposed of the largest consignment of weapons so far, but hopes that the move will kick-start the political process collapse after the UUP criticises the lack of detail on the act of disarmament.

DECEMBER 8, 2004: Hopes for a ground-breaking deal between Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein collapse after DUP demands for decommissioning to be photographed.

JULY 28, 2005: The IRA announces it is to abandon its armed campaign for good and orders its members to pursue republican aims through purely peaceful means.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2005: Head of the IICD General John De Chastelain confirms that the IRA's arsenal has been verifiably decommissioned.

OCTOBER 27, 2005: General de Chastelain holds new talks with the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) amid claims that new momentum is building up on loyalist decommissioning.

October, 2007: Northern Ireland Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, of the nationalist SDLP, cuts funding for the loyalist-linked Conflict Transformation Initiative after the UDA failed to meet her 60-day ultimatum to begin decommissioning its weapons following loyalist violence. The High Court subsequently rules she was wrong to block the funding.

NOVEMBER 11, 2007: The UDA stands down part of its organisation, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), saying their weapons would be put beyond use but stressing this did not mean they would be decommissioned.

MAY 21, 2008: One month after the Government confirmed it was to recognise the Ulster Volunteer Force's ceasefire, after the group was condemned for involvement in a loyalist feud, General de Chastelain says the next step should be UVF decommissioning.

DECEMBER, 2008: Senior Democratic Unionist Party members, including party leader Peter Robinson, reveal they have held talks with leading loyalists to encourage an end to criminality and the decommissioning of weapons.

JANUARY 29, 2009: Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward confirms that while decommissioning legislation has been extended to encourage loyalists to disarm, he will withdraw the powers if the groups do not begin decommissioning by August.

JUNE 18, 2009: It emerges that the UVF has carried out a significant act of decommissioning, with expectations that the UDA will follow suit.

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