An NIO assessment of political developments in early 1988 referred to a document by future First Minister David Trimble in which he argued for a Northern Ireland independent of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The law lecturer, who was then described as an influential figure in the hard-line Ulster Clubs movement, was just seven years away from the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party.
The booklet, entitled ‘What choice for Ulster’ was said to be “heavily based on Ulster Clubs thinking”.
The NIO paper, which has been released at the Public Record Office in Belfast, said: “It proposes to examine a range of options for political development, but its arguments are often weak and lacking in rigorous analysis.
“It dismisses out of hand both acceptance of the status quo and a united Ireland.
“It also rejects devolution and integration with the rest of the UK, concluding that ‘independence’ is the only way forward; this conflicts with the thinking of the UUP leadership and the idea is therefore unlikely to have much impact. It nevertheless reflects one strand of unionist thinking.”