Northern Ireland news

State Papers: NIO anger at Albert Reynolds' public handshake with Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams, John Hume and Albert Reynolds'  historic meeting in Dublin. Picture by Pacemaker
Éamon Phoenix

The famous public hand-clasp of Taoiseach Albert Reynolds with the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the SDLP leader John Hume at Government Buildings in Dublin on September 6, 1994 irritated the NIO.

The famous gesture came a week after the announcement of the IRA ceasefire which owed much to secret talks between Mr Hume and Mr Adams from 1988.

In a memo on developments in the peace process, dated October 6, 1994, Chris Maccabe of the Political Affairs Department informed ministers and officials: "Albert Reynolds gratefully and unquestioningly accepted the PIRA ceasefire as permanent.

"His subsequent meeting with Gerry Adams and John Hume was widely believed to reflect indecent haste although clearly designed to tie Adams into a process from which he personally would not be able to escape, no matter what the republican movement did."

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Mr Maccabe continued: "Irish irritation at [the British government's] refusal to acknowledge the permanency of the IRA's ceasefire also demonstrated itself by early calls for a relaxation of security policy in Northern Ireland and hints that IRA prisoners might be released early."

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In the official's view, "relief mingled with scepticism characterised the initial response of the unionist community".

There was immediate concern that "a secret deal had been struck’ to bring Sinn Féin into the process. However, a speech by the British prime minister, John Major in Northern Ireland on September 16, 1994 had done much to allay unionist fears".

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