Newly declassified Government files claim John Hume told a top British official in 1986 that there was “absolutely no prospect of bringing Northern Ireland into a united Ireland, nor was that his objective.”
David Goodall in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) wrote to Sir Robert Andrew in the NIO about a dinner conversation he had with the former SDLP leader at a British Irish Association event.
The two-page memo states that: “Hume said that the Irish dimension had been, and for the moment continued to be, of critical importance in securing nationalist support for the Hillsborough Agreement and in establishing to their satisfaction that there had been a sea-change for the better in the British Government’s attitude to nationalists.
“But he went on to say that there was in his view absolutely no prospect of bringing Northern Ireland into a united Ireland, nor was that his objective.
“He believed that, if power-sharing arrangements of some kind could be established in Northern Ireland, the SDLP would be able to deal with the unionists on equal terms and the Dublin link would become unnecessary,
“The introduction of a devolved administration on a power-sharing basis plus the other improvements foreshadowed in the Agreement would of themselves, over time, bring about a comprehensive and radical change in the climate in Northern Ireland and in relations between the two communities there.
“In the course of that process, there would be corresponding adjustments in the relationships between North and South (and between the two parts of Ireland and Great Britain) which could not yet be identified or predicted.”
It went on: “The end result of that process would certainly not be a united Ireland in the traditional sense, but a whole series of new relationships between the component parts of the British Isles.”
The documents were released at the Public Record Office under the 20 Year Rule.