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.
Central to secret negotiations between the British Government and the IRA throughout the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Brendan Duddy managed intense negotiations over the Republican hunger strikes and was vital to the secret contacts from 1990 onwards that led to a secret offer of a ceasefire that prefigured the public IRA ceasefire of 1994. Intense secrecy shrouded this channel of communication throughout these decades but in 2008 Duddy’s role was finally made public in the BBC documentary ‘The Secret Peacemaker’. For more than twenty years the burden of secrecy on Brendan Duddy was shared by all of the members of his family who equally had to maintain secrecy about the fact that senior British officials and Provisional IRA leaders were going in and out of their family home which served as the venue for the secret talks of 1975 and the hub for contact again in the early 1980s and 1990s.
The papers of Brendan Duddy provide a unique insight into the resolution of the 'Troubles'. The collection includes coded diaries of contact as well as messages exchanged between the British Government and the Provisional Republican leadership. The papers provide a rare insight into the dynamics of back-channel negotiation that can help us to understand the role of secret negotiation in efforts to resolve conflict in other situations.
The archive also includes several hours of filmed footage of interviews with Brendan Duddy by NUI Galway lecturer in Politics, Dr Niall O Dochartaigh. The interviews cover the key historical events in which Brendan Duddy was involved. A series of articles published recently by Dr O Dochartaigh analyse the character of this secret communication and illustrate how the Duddy papers shed new light on key events in the Northern Ireland conflict and the peace process. They include articles in international academic journals including the Journal of Peace Research, International Journal of Conflict Management and Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict as well as the Field Day Review of Irish studies. The launch of the Brendan Duddy Collection will take place in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway, following the half-day symposium, Negotiating Peace.