In the closing months of 1994, the principal paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland declared that their campaigns of violence were at an end. The cease-fires called by republican and loyalist groupings represented the most significant heralds of a complex process of conflict transformation that continues to unfold even twenty years on. In this introduction, we set out to map the key developments that have shaped the tortuous narrative of the Northern Irish 'peace process', thereby providing the historical backdrop for the articles that follow. While remarkable progress has been made over the two decades since the paramilitary cease-fires, the political context and future of the region remain rather more fraught than is often assumed abroad. It is perhaps best, then, to speak of the six counties in terms not of resolution but rather of ambiguity. Twenty years on from the optimism that greeted the paramilitary cease-fires, Northern Ireland retains the essential 'inbetweenness' of a political space that has moved from a 'long war' through a 'long peace' and into a profoundly undecided future.