Newly-released State Papers from 1981 claim that Bobby Sands offered to suspend his hunger strike just a week before his death.
According to the documents released this morning under the 30-year rule, the offer was conveyed to the British government by the Pope's Secretary, John Magee.
Government archives in Dublin, Belfast and London opened today, giving new insights into the events of 1981.
The year was dominated by the H-Block hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, in which ten men died, starting with Bobby Sands.
The papers contain the claim that just a week before his death, Sands offered to suspend his strike for five days, when he met Fr Magee, then secretary to the Pontiff, who later became Bishop of Cloyne.
Fr Magee told Northern Secretary Humphrey Atkins that Sands said he would suspend his strike in return for discussions with a British government official, in the presence of two priests and three other prisoners as witnesses.
The British rejected the offer out of hand, claiming it was an attempt to open negotiations.
Senior Republicans involved in the hunger strike have told RTÉ News they had never heard of such an offer, which they say went against everything Sands did and said during the hunger strike.
'Behind Closed Doors' is on RTÉ One from 7.30pm tonight, where RTÉ's David McCullagh examines Government documents to gain a fresh perspective on the events of 1981