Brendan Duddy - 'The Secret Peacemaker' - dies

Brendan Duddy.
Brendan Duddy.
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A Derry man who was for years the secret link between the IRA and the British government has died.

Businessman Brendan Duddy passed away earlier today after a long illness. He was aged 80.

Brendan Duddy.

Brendan Duddy.

Mr. Duddy's key role throughout the Troubles and during the peace process brought him into regular contact with MI5, MI6 and senior republicans.

It's understood that, as a "go between" or "back channel", he passed secret messages between the British government and the IRA for 20 years.

Crucial talks that led to the 1994 IRA ceasefire took place in Mr. Duddy's home in Derry.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair's ex-chief of staff Jonathan Powell has hailed the Derry man as the "key" to discussions between republicans and British intelligence.

Brendan Duddy.

Brendan Duddy.

In his book, 'Great Hatred, Little Room - Making Peace in Northern Ireland', Mr. Powell says the Derry businessman was first approached by British Secret Intelligence Service officer, Frank Steele, in the early 1970s and, later, by another agent, Michael Oatley, with whom he would remain in contact for the next two decades.

Powell wrote: "Duddy was a pacifist and a firm believer in dialogue. Referred to as 'The Contact', Duddy worked selflessly and at great risk to himself over many years to bring about a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland."

Brendan Duddy, himself, told the 'Derry Journal' in 2008 that he felt his life was in "constant danger" during the Troubles and it was his faith that had helped him through.

"You develop ways of coping with the pressure," he said. "I ran up to Grianan of Aileach every day. I prayed every day and I still do. I would not have approached things any differently."

He also insisted his relationship with the British government had been "honourable" and that he had no regrets about his role as a "go between".

"There was trust and respect there all the time," he said. "The work couldn't have been done without that."

"I never had any doubt that peace would be achieved," he added.

"If I was to turn back the clock, I would do it again. My faith would leave me with no option but to. I am not known as an altar person but, without my faith, I couldn't have done what I did."

Mr. Duddy, who was a successful businessman in his own right, also played a key role in negotiating Derry's parades deal in the mid-1990s.

He helped broker an agreement between the Apprentice Boys and the Bogside Residents' Group (BRG) which led to loyal orders' parades in the city passing off peacefully.