New hope of Ulster peace

Time for Peace

August 31. The IRA announced "a complete cessation of military operations." Relief swept across the province as the terrorists apparently turned their backs on 30 years of the Troubles which had cost 3,000 lives, and decided to enter the democratic process.

It was not to be. The ceasefire held for a few months but, frustrated at the lack of progress towards their dream of a united Ireland, the IRA were soon planting bombs again. And throughout this first ceasefire, the old street-level violence continued across Ulster with "punishment" beatings and other acts of barbarism.

Yet the seeds for a lasting settlement had been sown. Ulster people briefly enjoyed driving without having to stop at road blocks and shopping without the need for bomb checks at every store. They wanted more. The August 1994 announcement may have been an imperfect peace but it was a step in the right direction. Without the IRA renouncing violence, Sinn Fein could not have been admitted to the talks which would lead to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

June 3. Cricket fans held their breath as the remarkable Warwickshire batsman Brian Lara notched up his historic 501 runs at Edgbaston, becoming the first cricketer to score more than 500 runs in a first-class innings. As the match against Durham was drawing to close, the umpire informed Lara - then on 497 - that he had just two more balls in which to break the 1959 record of 499 runs.

The 25-year-old left-hander obliged with his next delivery - an imperious off-drive against Durham's captain Phil Bainbridge - and the match ended in a draw. It was one world record to another - just seven weeks earlier the talented Trinidadian eclipsed the Test record score for a single innings. He had now scored 1,161 for the West Indies and his adopted county.

OJ SimpsonJune 14. American football legend OJ Simpson was being quizzed by police after his ex-wife and a man friend were killed outside her luxury home in Los Angeles. Simpson, who had turned film actor, was not under arrest. His lawyer said the 46-year-old former athlete was "devastated" by the discovery of the bodies just after midnight and was co-operating with police.

But detectives soon built up a formidable case against him and his subsequent trial received live media coverage. In particular, the court heard of a blood-stained glove found in Simpson's home that allegedly matched another at the murder scene. The story had already become something of a media circus with a car chase involving the police and Simpson receiving blanket TV coverage. Simpson eventually gave himself up.

The case divided America along racial lines, with African-Americans claiming he was being victimised and could not receive a fair trial from the white-dominated legal system.

June 30. Football star Diego Maradona, regarded by some as the greatest player in the world, was banned from the World Cup in America after testing positive for drugs. He admitted afterwards his roller-coaster career was at an end. The ban came shortly before the Argentina-Bulgaria game from which he was excluded. His team lost 2-0.

The 33-year-old player, who was banned for 15 months in 1991 for using cocaine, tested positive to five drugs, according to FIFA. The disgraced star claimed he had no idea how he took them, saying he did not need any kind of stimulant. He added: "My soul is broken. They have retired me from soccer."

August 31. Hopes for an end to the bitter civil war in Rwanda rose with the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front wresting control from the Hutus. More than a million Rwandans had lost their lives in the dreadful massacre and nearly two million refugees fled the country. The bloodshed had gone on for 16 months since the assassination of the central African country's president whose plane was shot down. The next day the Prime Minister was gunned down.

The slaughter that followed was reported to be a deliberate attempt at the genocide of the minority Tutsi. Debate raged over America and Europe's refusal to send troops to a United Nations peace-keeping force.


In brief

January 1. A Darlaston couple celebrated the birth of the baby they never dreamed possible after his 48-year-old dad had a vasectomy.

February 21. MPs agree to cut the age of consent for gay sex from 21 to 18.

March 12: The first female priests were ordained by the Church of England.

May 1. Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna was killed in a crash during the Italian Grand Prix.

May 27. The Russian novelist and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned home after a 20-year exile.

June 1. War veterans protested as Wolverhampton council chiefs revealed they had no plans to mark the D-Day anniversary.

June 7. British television writer Dennis Potter died.

June 25. Around 600 Black Country daytrippers were stranded in Blackpool after a Birmingham tour firm went bust owing 75,000.

June 30. Skating champion Tonya Harding was banned after being implicated in the assault on US rival Nancy Kerrigan by a masked man who leapt into the rink during the national championships and hit one of her knees with a baton.

July 1. PLO leader Yasser Arafat made his first visit to Palestinian territory since 1969.

July 2. More than 1,000 die in an avalanche triggered by an earthquake in Colombia.

July 4. Wolverhampton nightclubbers were given free condoms by the town's health promotion unit in a bid to get across the safe sex message.

July 21. Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party.

August 14. International terrorist Carlos the Jackal - real name Illich Ramirez Sanchez - was captured.

October 1. The Express & Star launched a £100,000 statue appeal to honour former Wolves and England star Billy Wright.

October 31. Hundreds of jobs at Chubb were safeguarded after the Wolverhampton firm landed a £750,000 order from a French rail company.

November 8. The first public hearings in the tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia took place at the Hague.