British government officials wanted to brainwash Northern Irish republican hunger strikers into abandoning their protest, official archives revealed today.
Britain's plans to combat the 1981 protests - in which 10 men died in a bid to gain political prisoner status - was revealed under the 30-year-rule.
Northern Ireland Office official RA Harrington suggested that the decision of one hunger striker to start eating again would be a propaganda coup for the government.
The bid was rejected after another civil servant said involving hospital staff was out of the question and doubted that any of the strikers would capitulate.
The archives revealed that despite then prime minister Margaret Thatcher's firm rhetoric, behind the scenes officials were working to accommodate some of the strikers demands.
The British government's callous treatment of the hunger strikers drew international condemnation and marked one of the bloodiest periods of the Troubles.
Files also revealed that the hunger strikes could have spread to republican prisoners in British jails.
A letter from high-profile Leicester jail inmate Brian Keenan to Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams outlined a plan to bring about an end to the hunger strikes.
"I am surprised a hunger strike has not started already and suppose that the majority of republican prisoners in England do not wish to distract from the H-block crisis," he said.
He suggested a wing of the notorious Maze prison be used to house repatriated republican prisoners from England.
Mr Keenan, who became a major figure in the peace process, received an 18-year sentence in 1980 for conspiring to cause explosions.
The Tory government also rejected a backbencher's plan to house paramilitary prisoners on a floating jail.
David Waddington, who became home secretary in 1989, made the suggestion so that inmates could be buried quietly at sea to remove "the publicity which these people appear to seek" through massive funerals.
Northern Ireland Office prisons minister Michael Alison rejected that and another proposal for small funerals behind closed doors to avoid pillory as a "stony-hearted" government.
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