Hundreds of mourners packed into St Eugene’s Cathedral today for the funeral of Brendan Duddy - the Derry businessman who played a key role in Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Mr Duddy, who acted as an intermediary between the British government and the IRA, hosting secret talks at his Derry home, passed away on Friday last after a long illness.
Mourners at his funeral included Nobel laureate John Hume, former Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty, representatives of the Irish government and the Irish President, as well as local politicians and members of the Derry business community.
Also in the congregation was Michael Oatley, the former MI6 officer whose contacts with the IRA through Brendan Duddy were cloaked in secrecy.
Peter Taylor, the journalist who first broke the story of Brendan Duddy’s role as a secret “go between”, was also among the mourners.
Rev. Chris Ferguson, in his homily at the Requiem Mass, said Mr. Duddy had dedicated his life towards working for peace and had never been afraid to take risks.
He added: “Brendan knew the value of creating and maintaining trust on all sides, which, would allow the seeds planted through dialogue to produce the peace process.
“Brendan possessed the determination and persistence to remain actively involved for many decades in the task of creating the opportunity for dialogue which could lead to peace. Reflecting on his time as a negotiator Brendan emphasised the need to know his role, which meant having to leave your ego at the door and never over stepping your boundaries. Accordingly, Brendan said he never desired to be in the limelight, he wasn’t looking for recognition or acknowledgement.
“Brendan worked hard at creating trust, ensuring there would be no disclosures which could have harmed the building of relationships. He firmly believed there was the willingness on all sides to negotiate, Brendan’s role was to help people see the opportunity that existed for peace.”
Mr. Duddy, said Fr. Ferguson, had a great ability to think outside the box “which was so necessary in the infancy of the political discussions in which he was involved.”
“Always maintaining the long view, Brendan never gave up hope regardless of many setbacks.
“Brendan, in his position as facilitator, found himself bearing witness to the secret fears and anxieties of all sides.
“Containing this tension became a lifelong vocation with the aid of all those who were involved in the secret talks, with those who managed to keep the back channels open. Not only was Brendan not afraid to take risks, importantly he was open to the opinion of others.”
Being a husband and father, Brendan Duddy, said Fr. Ferguson, had a vested interest in seeing an end to conflict through real and meaningful negotiations.
His trust in God’s presence, said Fr. Ferguson, provided the reassurance and guidance he needed to keep the space for dialogue open.
“Once the talking had started, Brendan knew his job was done.”
Rev. David Latimer, Minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church, and Dr. William Morton, former Dean of St Columb’s Cathedral and now Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, also took part in yesterday’s Mass.