After the announcement on Friday 29th August, 1997 by Marjorie (Mo) Molam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire had been sufficiently well observed for Sinn Féin (SF) to enter the multi-party talks, Sinn Féin (SF) signed up to the Mitchell Principles and entered the multi-party-talks at Stromont on 9th September. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) joined the multi-party talks at Stromont on 17th September; the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) boycotted the talks because of the presence of SF
Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), and Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of SF, met Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, for the first time.
Wednesday 7 January 1998 and Mowlam announced that she would go into the Maze Prison to meet Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) prisoners in an attempt to change their decision to end their support for the peace process. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) described the decision by Mowlam as “madness”.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), led by David Trimble, welcomed the decision. (Trimble would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize along with John Hume, leader of the SDLP.)
This strategy worked and the prisoners subsequently restated their support for the peace process. However, Sinn Fein and the Ulster Democratic Party were expelled and suspended from the Talks relating to continued paramilitary activities that were in breach of the participation
arrangements. George Mitchell, then independent chairman of the multi-party talks, set a deadline of 9 April for the finding of an agreement between the parties.