Duddy took risks for peace - Powell

Derry businessman Brendan Duddy took great personal risks while acting as a secret contact between the IRA and the British Government, Tony Blair's former chief-of-staff has revealed.

In his book, 'Great Hatred; Little Room - Making Peace in Northern Ireland,' Jonathan Powell heaps praise on Brendan Duddy, describing his as the "key" which led to discussions between republicans and MI5.

Mr Powell said the Derry businessman was first approached by a British Government 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 writes: "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."

The former senior aide to Tony Blair also reveals that it was a meeting organised by Duddy between Martin McGuinness and Michael Oatley in 1991 which led to the peace process.

Mr Powell describes the Derry businessman as the key which opened the door to the IRA for the British intelligence services.

"It was, metaphorically, contained in a locked box, the key to which was in the possession of Brendan Duddy and behind which, wherever he happened to be in the world, was Oatley, known to the IRA as 'Mountain Climber.'"