A special event to officially launch the private papers of a Derry businessman who was a key intermediary between the IRA and British intelligence is to take place later this month.
Known only as ‘The Link’ or ‘The Contact’, Brendan Duddy spent 20 years of his life secretly working towards peace.
Now his private papers, which have been deposited with the National University of Ireland in Galway, are to be launched at an event bringing together prominent figures from the worlds of academia, diplomacy and the media.
The “Negotiating Peace Symposium” will explore key questions surrounding the negotiated settlement of violent conflicts, drawing in particular on the experience of negotiation in the Irish peace process.
Among those speaking at the half-day event - which will take place at NUI Galway on November 22 - are BBC investigative reporter Peter Taylor, former senior British government official Michael Oatley and Seán Ó hUiginn, a former senior Irish diplomat.
During three extended periods between 1973 and 1993, the British government was involved in intensive secret contact with the IRA leadership through the same intermediary, Brendan Duddy.
Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Lecturer in Politics at NUI Galway, says the Duddy papers provide a “unique insight” into the resolution of the ‘Troubles’.
“At a time when there is intense public debate on the value of negotiation with armed opponents in situations such as Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine, the Duddy papers provide a rare insight into the dynamics of back-channel negotiation that can help us to understand the role of secret negotiation in efforts to resolve conflict in other situations,” he said.
According to Niall Ó Dochartaigh, the papers show the “remarkable persistence and consistency” of Brendan Duddy’s conviction that the conflict could only be ended through a negotiated settlement that included the Provisional IRA.
“From the early 1970s, Brendan Duddy worked determinedly and in complete secrecy to try to draw the two sides closer together, a lifetime’s work that eventually came to fruition in the negotiated settlement of the late 1990s,” added the academic.
The Duddy papers are directly related to the papers of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, former President of Sinn Féin, which are also held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway.
Together, these archives constitute one of the most important sources for understanding the attempts to resolve conflict in Ireland that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
The archive also includes several hours of filmed footage of interviews with Brendan Duddy by Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh.
The interviews cover the key historical events in which Brendan Duddy was involved. A series of articles published recently by Dr Ó Dochartaigh analyse the character of this secret communication and illustrate how the Duddy papers shed new light on key events in the Northern Ireland conflict and the peace process.
They include articles recently published or shortly to be published in international academic journals including the Journal of Peace Research, International Journal of Conflict Management and Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict as well as the Field Day Review of Irish Studies.
Research on the papers involves collaboration between NUI Galway’s School of Political Science and Sociology and the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Centre (INCORE) and both institutions will collaborate to make a selection of primary documents from the collection freely available online through CAIN and NUI Galway’s library website.