On February 9, 1996, after a seventeen-month cease-fire, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) set off a bomb in East London. Less than a week later, the London police found and destroyed a bomb that the IRA had left in a telephone booth in the West End. A few days later, another IRA bomb went off on a doubledecker bus. The British government, under the leadership of John Major, asserted that it would have no official contact with Sinn Féin, the political arm of the IRA, until the paramilitary activities stopped. The government also deployed 500 additional troops in Northern Ireland. In October 1996, the IRA detonated two bombs at the British Army's headquarters in Lisburn, bringing the violent conflict back to Northern Ireland for the first time since the cease-fire.
On May 1, 1997, Tony Blair was elected Great Britain's prime minister. His election brought a renewed sense of optimism and good will to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Responding to Blair's overtures, including his warning that “the settlement train is leaving, with or without them” (Hoge 1997a, A7), the IRA announced on July 19, 1997, that they had “ordered the unequivocal restoration of the cease-fire” (Clarity 1997c, 1). Soon thereafter, Sinn Féin was invited to participate in the peace talks, which reconvened on September 15, 1997.