How do you bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland Send Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley on a midnight hunting trip in South Africa: Officials’ bizarre plan revealed

  • The peace process contemplated the possibility of sending Northern Ireland’s political leaders to South Africa for a game hunting trip.
  • Files that were declassified revealed Ireland’s request to host a meeting in 1997 with the main parties of a game preserve.
  • However, the idea to bring together Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley on a safari with David Trimble was rejected by John Bruton.

Documents reveal that a bizarre proposal to send Northern Ireland’s politicians on a “game hunting” trip in South Africa was discussed during the peace process.

Files that were classified revealed Ireland’s plans to host a meeting in February 1997 at a Game Reserve with the main party.

But sending Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, Ian Paisley of the DUP and David Trimble of the UUP on a safari – with a ‘midnight game hunting expedition’ – was dismissed by then-Taoiseach John Bruton.

The idea was rejected by him, and he added: “It’s the kind of indulgence which adds to our problem.” 

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams listening to other party members during the first day of debating in the new Northern Ireland Assembly chamber at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in 1998

Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein listens to his fellow party members in debating the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber in Parliament Buildings Stormont during Day One in 1998

Reverand Ian Paisley delivers a hard-hitting speech at a joint Unionist rally in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, 1997

Reverand Ian Paisley makes a strong speech during a Unionist rally held in Belfast’s Ulster Hall.

He opposed any offer of a foreign junket to those parties that were reluctant to join the peace negotiations. 

However, officials from Ireland took the matter seriously.

According to some suggestions, 30 representatives from Northern Ireland could meet with South African officials in order to talk about their experiences of post-apartheid resolution. 

These plans were released by National Archives and included in a group of classified files.

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber at Stormont, 1998

David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party speaks in Stormont’s Northern Ireland Assembly chamber. 1998

In September 1997, the Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble met with his Sinn Fein counterparts for their first face-to–face negotiation.

The UUP, which was at the time the biggest unionist party in Northern Ireland, refused to participate initially.

Recorded in just minutes, this historic moment between the two parties when they shared a conference space during peace talks was referred to as “something like a damp sponge”.

It was reported that Mr Trimble said at Stormont that his goal was to confront Sinn Fein, not negotiate with them.

The official summaries of the talks stated: “The Unionists shared the Conference Room with Sinn Fein for first time… It was an historic moment.”

The Good Friday Agreement was signed by the leaders of all the major parties one year later, in 1998.