The Irish Government’s decision to meet Gerry Adams after the IRA ceasefire showed “indecent haste”, British government officials said.
Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds shook hands with the Sinn Fein president and SDLP leader John Hume following a meeting in Dublin a week after republicans laid down arms in August 1994.
Confidential briefings from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) were released by the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (Proni) on Friday.
The official records said a meeting between Mr Reynolds, Mr Adams and Mr Hume following the ceasefire was considered “to reflect indecent haste, although clearly designed to tie Adams into a process from which he personally would not be able to escape, no matter what the republican movement did”.
The IRA had declared a ceasefire in August 1994, followed by the main loyalist paramilitaries in October that year.
It led to the beginning of public contact between the British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein.
Exploratory talks between the British government and Sinn Fein commenced before Christmas that year.
In 1995 the republican party was to receive further international recognition from US President Bill Clinton when he gave Mr Adams authority to make a fundraising tour.
In February 1995 the British and Irish governments signed a Frameworks document on the Northern Ireland peace process.
It set out guiding principles including: self-determination; consent of the governed; “that agreement must be pursued and established by exclusively democratic, peaceful means, without resort to violence or coercion”; and “that any new political arrangements must be based on full respect for and protection and expression of, the rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland and even-handedly afford both communities in Northern Ireland parity of esteem and treatment, including equality of opportunity and advantage”.
The NIO files said Frameworks met with a “generally favourable” response from nationalist parties, a “bitterly antagonistic” reaction from mainstream unionism and the Alliance Party, while the churches, business community and loyalist parties adopted varying positions of “less than outright rejection”.
Rumours of an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leadership challenge surfaced but there appeared to be uncertainty over the direction the party might take.
The government’s assessment of the Democratic Unionists said: “Apocalyptic analysis of the Frameworks was a balance between outrage at the unacceptability of the proposals and triumph at the extent to which their predictions of constitutional disaster had been proved right.”
The SDLP maintained a relatively low profile.