Historic ‘secret peace talks’ property for sale

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An historic ‘gentleman’s residence’ on the outskirts of Derry - which hosted secret peace talks between the IRA and the British government in the early 1970s - is for sale.

The 11-bedroom property at Beragh Hill Road is set in eight acres and dates back to the mid-1800s.

It’s believed the estate agent selling the house will consider offers in the region of £750,000-£795,000.

The house has been solely occupied by the McCorkell family - famous for operating a shipping line in the 19th century - since it was built in 1845.

It is the first time in its entire history that the property has been offered for sale.

The property - which also includes an adjoining ‘Dairy House’ - boasts mature gardens which include a large fish pond and lawned tennis court.

The house also includes a study, a wine cellar, a billiards room and a garage.

Both the residence and the Dairy House are buildings of special architectural and historical interest.

Set in an ‘idyllic and tranquil’ location, the house was constructed in the era of the ‘Arts and Crafts Movement’ in the mid-eighteenth century which was an international design movement that originated in England before spreading to Ireland.

It was in June 1972, following an explosion of violence in which hundreds had been killed across Northern Ireland, that Aileen McCorkell - who passed away at Christmas aged 89 - agreed to host at her family home clandestine peace talks between the British government and the Provisional IRA.

A tribute in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ following her death said Lady McCorkell’s “clear-sighted impartiality and pragmatism” led her to agree to host the secret peace talks at her Ballyarnett home.

“Though beynod greeting the parties, and providing a chocolate cake, the McCorkells left the negotiators alone to get on with it,” the report reveals.

The truce which followed was short-lived and, within a month, members of the North Derry Pony Club, who were having their annual camp at the McCorkell farm, woke to find soldiers had arrived secretly in the night and were shaving out of their horses’ feed buckets.

This was the build-up to Operation Motorman and the “re-occupation” of the no-go areas.

For her work during the Troubles - she founded the Derry City Red Cross group in 1962 - Lady McCorkell was awarded, in 1972, the Red Cross Badge of Honour for Distinguished Service. In 1975, she was appointed OBE.

Her experiences with the Red Cross during the Troubles were recorded in a short memoir, “A Red Cross in My Pocket’, published in 1992.

Her husband, Michael McCorkell, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Londonderry in 1975 and, in 1994, was awarded a knighthood. He died in 2006.

The McCorkells are survived by three sons and a daughter.