Brendan Duddy and the Colombians

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. (0804MM20)
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. (0804MM20)

A Derry businessman who played a key role in the peace process here is also unwittingly helping to end one of the longest running conflicts in the world.

Brendan Duddy, who was part of a secret ‘back channel’ between the British government and the IRA, has had his peacemaking role recognised by the Colombian government who have named their own ‘back channel’ with FARC guerillas in his honour.

Mr Duddy liaised with MI6 agent Michael Oatley for more than two decades as part of his efforts to bring peace to the North.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, the 14th Dalai Lama, described Mr Duddy as his hero when he visited Derry last year.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who visited Colombia last week to assist their peace process, said he was surprised now knowledgeable officials there were about events in the North over the last 20 years.

“I heard someone say recently say that the Irish peace process does not necessarily translate to other countries for the resolution of conflicts elsewhere.

“Of course not all conflicts are the same but I was absolutely shocked by the level of government of the Colombian government chief negotiator’s about our peace process. They know absolutely everything about it.

“They know all the different presenilities, on the British side, the Sinn Féin side, the unionist side and one of the most surprising revelations was whenever they started to talk to me about the back channel between the IRA and the British government they mentioned the name of Brendan Duddy.

Even more surprisingly, when they opened up a back channel to the FARC they named their back channel Brendan,” he said.

Mr McGuinness said the move shows the influence the Irish peace process has had in other countries.

“Our negotiators have been to the Philippines in what also appears to be a very successful peace process, we have also had Burmese government ministers to Stormont Castle where I met with them and the warring factions in Burmah, and of course we have used our influence to bring about a cessation of conflict in the Basque country which has seen important statements made over the course of recent times,” he said.

The Deputy First Minister also said he is planning to return to Colombia in the coming months to negotiate with the FARC guerillas and the Colombian government,” he said.