Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair are all smiles after the Belfast Agreement is signed  on April 10th 1998.   Photograph: John Giles/PA

Newly released files from 1991-1998 allow for fresh assessment of the peace brokers

Taoiseach Charles  Haughey and  British prime minister John Major leaving Government Buildings in May 1991. Photograph: Eric Luke

State papers: History shows former taoiseach correct not to unilaterally abandon Articles 2 and 3

The Irish in London kept vigil outside 10 Downing Street on July 21st, 1921, while  de Valera met Lloyd George. Photograph: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Frances Stevenson’s diary on the Lloyd George-de Valera summit of 1921 offers rare insights

Northern secretary James Prior and minister for justice Michael Noonan at Iveagh House, Dublin, in 1984. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Former Northern Ireland secretary highly critical of Thatcher and unionists

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher with taoiseach Charles Haughey on the steps of 10 Downing Street, London, in May 1980. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

State Papers: Haughey and Thatcher only held one hour of discussions in the year

Gay Byrne had a surer sense of public opinion than the custodians of old Ireland. File photograph: Maxwell’s

Broadcaster played a key role in the opening up of media that enabled change

Patrick Mayhew. Photograph: Frank Miller

British colleagues also perplexed by ‘national security’ reason for lack of prosecutions

Margaret Thatcher published her memoirs in 1993, whereas Haughey (pictured with the former British prime minister in May 1980) never wrote his. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Analysis: Records suggest she was irascible on Ireland, shallow and very often uncertain on detail

Margaret Thatcher  visiting the site of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, a year in which security concerns dominated her dealings with the Irish government.  Photograph: Peter Thursfield

State papers show the taoiseach and the British PM 'at loggerheads' over the IRA

Unionist leaders the Rev Ian Paisley and James Molyneaux. They were described respectively as a “bigot” and “inconsiderable” by the Conservative Party’s Lord Hailsham. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

State Papers: 1987 files describe mission to promote Anglo-Irish Agreement

Official files are released for public viewing after 30 years at the National Archives in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller

The British are moving to release official files after 20 years

Northern secretary Tom King (left) with minister for foreign affairs Brian Lenihan in Dublin in September 1987. Irish officials reckoned King had “moved a considerable distance” since his “appallingly bad” start. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

The nightmare for any Irish government was the extradition of an innocent citizen who would be wrongly jailed

British Cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong in 1986.

State papers 1986: UK secretary said Anglo-Irish Agreement resulted in ‘fundamental change’

Peter Barry, left, then minister for foreign affairs, with Tom King, then Northern Ireland secretary, in Iveagh House, Dublin, 1986. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

State Papers 1986: the year after agreement was signed relations remained complex

Ireland – The Autobiography: John Bowman at the National Archives of Ireland. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The historian and broadcaster’s new ‘autobiography of Ireland’ uses letters, diaries and other ‘authentic’ documents to tell new s(...)

Lord Robert Armstrong, cabinet secretary under Mrs Thatcher and one of  key negotiators of the  agreement,  at an event marking the agreement’s 30th anniversary in  Trinity College Dublin last November. Photograph: Eric Luke

Thatcher had concerns, feared unionist reaction, but officials and FitzGerald pressed on

Garret FitzGerald shakes hands with  Margaret Thatcher during talks in November 1985. Photograph: Pat Langan

State Papers 1985: Taoiseach careful to keep Margaret Thatcher engaged during talks

Margaret Thatcher at a press conference in 1984: she said of her “out! out! out!” reponse: “I was asked a direct question. I gave a direct answer. That is my way.” photograph: eddie kelly

British prime minister’s ‘manner of presentation’ faulted by Dublin

The wreckage of Airey Neave’s car at the exit of Westminster’s underground car park. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images

PM talked of ‘Rhodesia/Zimbabwe out’ for British government

The shattered top floors of the Grand Hotel after the IRA bombing, which killed five and left 31 injured. Photograph: Getty

Documents reveal private reaction to 1984 attack at Conservative conference’s hotel

Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher at a December 1984 European Council meeting in Dublin the month after Thatcher rejected the New Ireland Forum report. Photograph: Eddie Kelly

Dublin wanted more than ‘mere consultation’ on Northern Ireland

Irish troops returning from the Great War march in a Victory Parade, at College Green, Dublin, in 1919. Some boycotted this parade and thereafter the veterans were treated with diffidence, hostility or indifference. Photograph: RTÉ Stills Library/Cashman Collection

Opinion: How was the Great War forgotten by so many for so long?

Peter Barry, Douglas Hurd, Garret FitzGerald, Margaret Thatcher, Dick Spring and Geoffrey Howe at Chequers before the 1983 summit. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

SDLP’s John Hume considered proposed arrangement ‘not Brits out, but Irish in’

An election victory and unionist aides hardened the British leader’s stance, 1983 papers show

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