In the intense and tragic state of modern conflicts, few were as severe as the conflict in Northern Ireland that grew into The Troubles. Lines were drawn which staunchly divided families, communities and cities and which resulted in violence, deaths and a history between Ireland and Britain that would forever be remembered solely as a dark time in our shared consciousness.
Throughout twenty years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland a secret channel of communication linked the IRA to the highest levels of the British government. At the heart of this channel was a single intermediary, Brendan Duddy. His house was the venue for secret negotiations between the British Government and the IRA throughout 1975. He managed the intense negotiations over the Republican hunger strikes in which ten men died (1980-1981) and he was at the heart of the contacts (1991-1993) that culminated in a secret offer of a ceasefire that was a precursor to the public IRA ceasefire of 1994.
Deposited at NUI Galway in 2009, the papers of Brendan Duddy provide a unique insight into this channel from the perspective of an individual who operated at the intersection of the two sides. They include coded diaries of contact kept by Duddy throughout 1975 and early 1976 and a diary kept for several months in 1993 when communication between the British Government and the IRA was at its most intense, as well as documents exchanged between the British Government and the IRA. Taken together with the Ruairí Ó Bradaigh papers, also at NUI Galway, these archives provide a window on the secret back-channel negotiation that was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Irish peace process.
To mark the launch of this incredible collection of papers, the James Hardiman Library has digitised a selection of items from the Duddy Archive. Three documents are taken from three key times in Duddy’s intervention between the IRA and the British government. The first item dates to 1975 as an initial cease fire was negotiated. Second, from 1980/81 marks a period when Duddy listed code words used during telephone conversations between the British Government, the IRA hungerstrikers in the Maze prison and the IRA council. The third represents a period of the early 1990’s when Duddy was again called upon as discussions focused on the Provisional IRA and Sir Peter Brooke, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
To view these documents in full from the Duddy Archive held at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, please click here: http://archives.library.nuigalway.ie/duddy/web/
This video is an interview with Brendan Duddy discussing the role of an intermediary:
For more on the Archives of James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway click here.