A round-up of previously classified state papers which were released over the New Year.
Newly released papers confirm the 26 County administration avoided solutions to the conflict in the 1970s which could have prevented decades of violence.
The Fine Gael-Labour government in 1975 balked at the possibility of both Irish reunification and repartition due to the cost and effort involved.
Civil servants of the day felt the task of reunification was too great. They also claimed that a redrawing of the border would be unaffordable, despite the cost being estimated at a fraction of the more recent bank bailout.
The civil servants were asked to consider options for a number of different potential political developments, but despite a constitutional mandate for reunification, they felt overwhelmed by the scale of the effort involved.
“This is beyond our military and administrative capabilities,” they complained. They also insisted that another option — that of redrawing the border — would prove too costly for the 26 County statelet.
One plan for a new border expected most of the occupied territory to be reunited with the South, and up to 500,000 Irish citizens liberated from British rule. But civil servants warned that the economic fall-out of any such plan would be too high at close to £900m for the plan to be fully enacted.
The document — entitled ‘Negotiated Repartition of Northern Ireland’ — warned of the economic and security consequences of any such border.
“(This) could impose a tremendous economic burden (on the Republic).”
The financial study would involve almost €9bn in today’s money – less than a fifth of the €46bn cost of the bailout of Irish banks following the financial crisis.
In early 2001 Gerry Adams, while travelling in the United States, held a wide-ranging meeting with the Irish ambassador to the US, Seán Ó hUiginn, at which he told the ambassador he wanted to see the Provisionial IRA move into “peaceful retirement”.
He also said he wanted Sinn Féin members to be pacifists with a “constructive social agenda” rather than traditional republicans who he described as “headbangers attracted to violence”.
It followed a comment by Ó hUigínn that Sinn Féin’s electoral success created a responsibility for the party to be more centrist and move away from republicanism.
The ambassador argued that such a view was “an inevitable reality” of becoming the largest nationalist party in the North and that Sinn Féin would be held to different standards than when it was “a relatively insignificant political force.”
Almost a year before the DUP appointed its first ministers to the Stormont Executive, the British government privately knew the party was planning to take up the positions regardless of whether the IRA decommissioned its weapons, despite party leader Ian Paisley’s grandstanding at the time.
A January 13, 1999 memo on “involving” the DUP and Sinn Féin set out a plan for both parties to “get a taste for having their hands on the levers of power, the more they may have an interest in seeing power transferred”.
The move marked the DUP’s gradual acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement and its decision to jointly govern the Six Counties alongside Sinn Féin.
The family of Pat Finucane were “appalled” by Tony Blair’s “ignorance” of the case details during a meeting in 2000 where they pushed the former British Prime Minister for a public inquiry. The high-profile defence lawyer was assassinated by British agents inside his family home in north Belfast in 1989.
Jane Winter of the British-Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), said following a meeting she thought Blair was “initially very dismissive of their case” and had initially tried to distance his government from the murder.
“He was also badly briefed and they [the family] were ‘appalled by his ignorance’ of the details of the case,” the note stated.
Tony Blair was keen on an idea to relocate then-Premier League football side Wimbledon FC to Belfast in 1997.
It was described as something that would be a “significant breakthrough if Belfast had a football team playing in the English Premier League”, and “should be able to build up strong cross-community support and provide a positive unifying force in a divided city”.
Former British Direct Ruler Patrick Mayhew was said to have attempted to charm Irish diplomats by using a sectarian remark about Protestants.
Mayhew, who traced his ancestry back to the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, told them that he had “grown up with a detestation of the ‘black Protestants’ of Northern Ireland”.
It was believed Mayhew, on taking up the role, was attempting to convince Irish officials that he was not partisan, according to a briefing note drafted by the 26 County Department of Foreign Affairs.
A former British Direct Ruler admitted in the 1980s that the steep learning curve for British Ministers appointed to the north of Ireland allowed unionists to manipulate them.
Jim Prior, explained that part of the problem was that most Direct Rule Ministers didn’t last more than two years. He told Irish Minister Peter Barry that by the time they went through the learning period and then through “the period of being hoodwinked by the Unionists... they had never had a chance to make any real advances”.
The late English Queen expressed a desire for more Irish nationalists living under British rule to attend her garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
Newly released archives show that Stormont leaders were requested in 2001 to “nominate” potential garden party guests from “as wide a range as possible”.
The request was issued by the office of the English Royal Household.
“It is the Queen’s wish that the nominations may include residents in Northern Ireland who hold Irish passports,” he wrote.
England’s Princess Diana was accused by an Irish official of “ignorance or disregard” in relation to Ireland after she made comments in which she did not recognise the partition of the island.
The late Princess had referred to the Six Counties as part of Ireland in an interaction which was noted by the Irish ambassador in 1993, Joseph Small.
Small, appointed to the post by the Fianna Fáil government. said Diana had shown “obvious ignorance of, or disregard for constitutional niceties” when she referred to a visit to the North of Ireland by saying “I was in your country yesterday”.
However, the then Prince Charles would insist on describing the North and South of Ireland as separate countries.
“Whenever we meet Prince Charles, he invariably says that he would love to visit Ireland,” Small’s briefing note dated May 21 1993 said. “He is, of course, a regular visit to Northern Ireland (sic).”