New book recalls Derry peace moves

A new book compiled by a man who was once the most senior British soldier in the North recalls the key role Derry played in the peace process.

‘The Ulster Tales’, by John Wilsey is a collection of ten accounts of various people who were involved in the conflict in the North over three decades. They include British soldiers, officers, civil servants, intelligence operatives, journalists, policemen, and the widow of a soldier killed by the IRA.

Mr Wilsey spent many years in the North from the 1960s onwards and in 1990 he became the British army’s director of operations.

One chapter of the book, ‘The Spook’s Tale’, in which he recounts the experiences of John Deverell, the director and co-ordinator of intelligence in the North, described the role played by Derry businessman, Brendan Duddy, in secret negotiations between the IRA and the British government.

Mr Deverell’s chapter deals with Mr Duddy’s dealings with Mr Oatley and his successor, known as ‘Mr Henderson,’ ‘Robert,’ or by others as ‘Fred’.

The chapter also describes Mr Duddy as an “unlikely peacemaker”, and recalls British intelligence officer Frank Steele’s comments that Martin McGuinness “had the coldest, most penetrating eyes he had ever seen” following their meeting during secret talks held at Cheyne Walk, Westminster.

The book also makes several mentions of Bloody Sunday and its impact on how the British army’s operations in the North were viewed.

Writing about Bloody Sunday in his postscript to the book, Mr Wilsey writes; “Bloody Sunday was an aberration. However, the shaming events of that day do not invalidate the claim that the overall British contribution in Northern Ireland was laudable.

“Moreover, the mark of a healthy organisation is one that can look back on its mistakes, learn from them, and ensure they are never repeated. They were never again repeated.”

‘The Ulster Tales - a tribute to those who served 1969-2000 ’ has a foreword by John Chilcot and is published by Pen and Sword Books.