The Battle of the Bogside in Derry is widely considered to the be the start of the Troubles, which was a period of conflict in Northern Ireland from 1969 till 1998, between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Unionists.
The Peace Process is a term used to describe the events that ended the troubles; the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army ceasefire, the Good Friday Agreement and the following political developments including power sharing.
Towards the end of 1993 a joint statement was made by British and Irish governments, that involved a series of statements that set out a pathway to peace, known as the Mitchell Principles. In 1994 discussions started between Gerry Adams(Sinn Féin) and John Hume(SDLP) that resulted in another series of statements from the 2 parties on how to bring about peace. This led to the first Provisional IRA ceasefire, which started with a 3 day "temporary cessation of hostilities" and then a "cessation of military operations" in August which was considered an permanent ceasefire by the Irish Taoiseach but was not well received by Unionist leaders. Loyalist violence continued until October when 3 loyalist paramilitary groups announced a ceasefire as well.
During 1995 the peace process was looking good, the Irish government started changing the constitution of Ireland to remove rules that were considered anti protestant such as the ban on divorce; US president Bill Clinton spoke at rallies in Belfast and Derry (just across the road in Guildhall Square) in favour of peace and he considers helping bring about peace in Northern Ireland as his greatest foreign policy achievement; but it didn’t last long.
In February 1996 the Provisional IRA ended the ceasefire stating that "the British government acted in bad faith with Mr Major and the unionist leaders squandering this unprecedented opportunity to resolve the conflict." This referred to the conservative government losing its majority and relying on Unionist votes to stay in power and refusing to allow Sinn Féin to be involved in peace talks. One hour after the statement a bomb was detonated in London killing 2 people and injuring 40. On the same day as the bomb the British prime minister was preparing to meet with Sinn Féin for the first time.
After another year of violence in May 1997 a general election changed the power balance in the United Kingdom with Tony Blair becoming the first Labour prime minister since 1974 and Sinn Féin became the 3rd largest party in Northern Ireland. A joint statement from the British and Irish governments gave the Provisional IRA 5 weeks to call a ceasefire, then Sinn Féin would be allowed into peace talks 6 weeks later. After Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness called for the IRA to renew its ceasefire, the IRA renewed its 1994 ceasefire on 20th July 1997.
Good Friday Agreement
In September 1997 Sinn Féin were finally allowed into talks, one of the first issues was with the Mitchell Principles, a set of six ground rules set out by the British and Irish governments for talks about the future of the region. Sinn Féin agreed to the principals but 12 of their members resigned in protest. After 7 months of all-party talks, several problems, multiple polls showing that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland were in support of the talks & peace and phone calls from US present Bill Clinton, an agreement was finally reached. The agreement is known as the good Friday Agreement and includes issues relating to sovereignty, civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, demilitarisation, justice & policing, it was agreed by British and Irish government and all major political parties in NI except the DUP.
Part of the agreement involved referendums to approve the agreement with the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the referendums passed with 71% of the vote in NI and 94% in ROI. In the republic this also involved amending the constitution to remove the territorial clam to Northern Ireland. The leaders of the UUP, David Trimble and SDLP John Hume are widely regarded to be the most important people in the success of the agreement and shared a the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for their roles.
Following the Good Friday Agreement a power sharing agreement was set up, it requires that the majority Catholic political party and the majority Protestant party to share power in Northern Ireland’s devolved government. For the first years this was the SDLP and UUP but has since shifted to SF and DUP. It has had many ups and downs and remains in a very fragile state, with disagreements between Sinn Féin and DUP almost ending it recently.
At this location there is a glass-enclosed eternal flame burns in the centre of this paved plaza surrounded by landscaping, known as the Peace Flame. It was lit by children from both sides of the community in 2013 as part of the Bright, Brand New Day programme led by local clergyman Reverend David Latimer of First Derry Presbyterian Church.