Providing an overview of the peace process presents a number of difficulties. The first problem lies in deciding whether the process was one with a definitive beginning and conclusion. One account suggests that the process ‘was a self-contained one with a beginning, a middle and, sadly, an end’ (Bew and Gillespie, 1996, p.7). Certainly the IRA bomb at Canary Wharf in February 1996 appeared to end the peace process. Nonetheless much speculation continued that another ceasefire was possible and a limited political process continued. If one accepts that the process ended in February 1996, the origins of the peace process were of considerably longer duration than the period of peace. A second problem is that of labelling. To speak of the Northern Ireland peace process is in a sense misleading. Much of the impetus and some of the ramifications of the process lay outside Northern Ireland. Thirdly, there lie the much broader problems of identifying how and why a peace process developed. Finally, the reasons why that process encountered a series of obstacles require analysis.