More than 2,000 votes for Gerry Adams in west Belfast when he was first elected MP in 1983 were believed to be fake, an internal NIO memo four years later said.
The confidential internal memo by JE McConnell in the NIO’s Political Affairs Branch came four days after the 1987 election result – an election in which the SDLP had succeeded in taking South Down from the UUP’s Enoch Powell but had failed to dislodge Mr Adams.
The official wrote of Sinn Fein’s performance: “Their total vote of 102,701 in 1983 certainly included a significant number of personated votes, (in fact it has been estimated that some 2,000 votes were personated in West Belfast alone). It can thus be argued that their total in 1987 has been reduced only by the number of illegal votes cast in 1983.”
Mr McConnell went on to say: “It is clear that their claims of 1983 that in due course they would overtake the SDLP and become the major nationalist party in Northern Ireland are never likely to be fulfilled.”
Mr McConnell also said that in the wake of the election result “there had been quite widespread irritation at the apparent cosiness and complacency of Molyneaux, Paisley and Hume in television appearances on Friday evening. He said that Mr Hume was “at his most sanctimonious”, while “Molyneaux behaved with little more animation than a puppet”.
Another file contains an October 1983 telegram from the Foreign Office to the NIO which appears to have been a briefing for the Prime Minister ahead of the first Anglo-Irish summit in nearly two years.
Since that point, Garret FitzGerald had replaced Charles Haughey as Taoiseach and the telegram described him as someone who had “always been a resolute opponent of terrorism and has generally adopted a more realistic and helpful approach to the Northern Ireland problem than Mr Haughey”.
But it went on: “On occasions, however, he has shown himself to be politically inept and allowed his idealism to run away with him.”
The telegram also advised Mrs Thatcher that the Irish Deputy Prime Minister’s title of Tánaiste should be pronounced “Torn-ishter”.