Idi Amin offered to mediate in Northern Ireland peace talks

IT MAY go down as the unlikeliest attempt ever to broker a settlement to the long-running Troubles in Northern Ireland.

In mid-1974, one of the worst years for violence in the province, Uganda’s notorious dictator, General Idi Amin, stepped in with an offer to mediate between the two sides.

Files released today to the National Archives reveal that the brutal and erratic Gen Amin wrote to Harold Wilson, the then prime minister, suggesting he could host peace talks in the African country.

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"It appears the situation in Northern Ireland is becoming worse every passing day without any apparent feasible solution to it in sight," wrote the dictator. "This serious and regrettable development calls for Britain’s best and sincere friends to come to her assistance. Consequently, I avail my good offices at the disposal of the opposing sides.

"I suggest that representatives of your Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, as well as representatives of your government, come to Uganda, far away from the site of battle and antagonism, for a conference on how to bring peace to their province."

Gen Amin said he would make suggestions to them on ways to end the fighting. "I hold a strong view that we in Uganda, being a former colony of Britain, stand a good chance of mediating between the opposing sides in the crisis that is tearing Northern Ireland apart," he added.

In a covering note, the British High Commission in Kampala said that while the offer showed Gen Amin’s "naive view of world affairs", it was "a genuine and sincere effort to be helpful".

Foreign Office officials did not want to encourage the dictator’s "delusions of statesmanship", but accepted that some form of polite reply would be necessary to avoid upsetting him.

The archives also show that at the height of the Troubles, Mr Wilson drew up a secret "Doomsday" plan in readiness for a "panic" British withdrawal from the province.

He admitted the scheme - effectively returning Northern Ireland to Protestant majority rule - could lead to massive bloodshed.