IRA hunger strikers should be force fed to stop them from dying, a leading government official suggested at the height of the 1981 protest at the Maze prison.
Dermot Neligan, assistant secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the government should urge the British to adopt a policy of force feeding prisoners.
The comments are a contained in a memorandum on the hunger strikes which he prepared in August 1981 and which has just been released by the National Archives.
The force feeding of prisoners "would give rise to much humanitarian protest", Mr Neligan acknowledged, "and unfortunately fine words have been used in the past by the British in defence of the idea of not interfering with suicidal abstinence".
Mr Neligan's suggestion never made it as far as the British government. The last two hunger strikers to die passed away in August 1981.