Ref NoPOL35
TitleThe Brendan Duddy Papers
DescriptionThe core of the collection covers a period of twenty years (1972-1993) and relates to Brendan Duddy's agency in the peace process. The collection as a whole covers over thirty years (1968-2007) and includes his wider observations of the process. The papers consist of memoranda (including two diaries of 1975 and 1976), of correspondence, and of published items (press cuttings, pamphlets, reports, brochures). As regards his personal involvement, the archives reflect particularly the period of 1974-1976, the period of the hungerstrikes of 1981 and 1981, and then the intense activity of 1993. After 1993, he served on the Northern Ireland Policing Board in 2006-2007. As regards Duddy's role as observer, there are press items and other publications in print on various issues regarding Northern Ireland, and interspersed in all sections A), B), and C), complementing the primary material. Duddy's offer of observations and advice to the Republicans after 1993 are arranged chronologically (A) and by name (B). His special interest in policing is served in C). Photographs (digital copies) add to this, in section D). The running commentary by Éamonn M.Downey provides some wider context, and also reflect Downey's own viewpoints and his wish to promote knowledge of Duddy's work. Interviews conducted with Brendan Duddy (D) provide background and context for the archives, on selected topics.
Extent9 archival boxes
ArrangementBrendan Duddy's and Éamonn Michael Downey ("EMD")'s arrangement of the first 18 chapters or series was largely maintained. The first section is arranged chronologically from 1968 to 2001 (A), though overlapping where Bloody Sunday, and the hunger strikes, were treated separately; the second section deals with particular agents and associates (e.g. Michael Oatley, "Fred") roughly in order of their appearance on the scene (B); the third focusses on Northern Irish policing (C); digitised photographs from Duddy's private collection. An appendix with filmed interviews adds further insights under thematic headings. Undatable items are generally placed at the end of each series. There is a large number of duplicates created by Downey in order to complete the chronological section of the archives (A); the original documents are generally found in the section for particular contacts (B). The full description for these is given twice, therefore, with variants where the original adds to the copy. However, not all relevant documents were copied and a researcher needs to consult both sections. The collection is in good physical condition.
Administrative HistoryBrendan Duddy was born in Derry on 10 June 1936. He became a businessman in his native city, and by the early 1970s he owned and managed two fish-and-chip shops- one in Beechwood Avenue (Creggan) and another in William Street.

His motivation for involvement in community affairs, and eventually in behind-the-scene politics, grew out of a deep interest in politics and debate ("I have been a political analyst all my life"), and out of an upbringing in a mixed community where Protestants marginally outnumbered Catholics, a fact he highlighted when making his statement for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in 1999: Much of my early life was associated with the Protestant population, many of my friends and associates were, and still are, Protestants and I realised that there were two communities and that the only way forward was to bridge the divide between them. I have been pacifist, anti-war, and anti-violence all my life. Duddy has been firmly committed to the peace process, believing that only dialogue would lead to a settlement. Knowing many active members of the civil rights movement, as well as Nationalist party politicians, he was however not directly involved with NICRA, and did as a rule not attend marches. By the mid-1960s, one of the two premises he owned (in Beechwood Avenue), attracted a broad cross-section of people interested in political debate who would gather there informally, until the setting-up of a barricade in about early 1971 made it difficult for some of those on the other side to come to the Creggan. While the meetings were open to anybody, there was no conscious dialogue going on with the Republicans (or Provisionals). Duddy knew Martin McGuinness in the 1960s when he worked for a supplier company delivering burgers to Duddy's shops - at a time when McGuinness's interest in politics was not yet kindled. Members of the police force also frequented the shop, and Duddy was friendly with Peter Gilgunn, one of two officers killed shortly before Bloody Sunday.

By 1971, Duddy was a member of the City Centre Liaison Committee, a body set up in about 1971 by Superintendent R.U.C. Frank Lagan "to encourage traders in the City centre to co-operate with policing". Duddy was the only perceived nationalist on the Committee. Following an escalation of violence in the wake of internment in the summer of 1971, the British government through its Representative Howard Smith made new efforts of a conciliatory nature: Secret Intelligence Service officer (MI6) Frank Steele arrived in October 1971. He closely co-operated with Frank Lagan, and made contacts with Falls Road and Bogside residents, eventually being the first British official contacting and meeting Provisional IRA leaders (Daithí Ó Cónaill and Gerry Adams, 1972). Some time in early 1972, Frank Lagan appears to have introduced Steele to Duddy.

In Duddy's telling, it was through Lagan that he was first involved in liaising between the government authorities (in this case, the police), and the Republican groups: Lagan requested him in the month leading up to Bloody Sunday to somehow gain assurances from Republicans (officials and Provisionals) that there would be no weapons in the Bogside. Duddy describes in his statement for the Inquiry how he contacted Malachy McGurran, and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who both found the request unnecessary but eventually gave their assurances.

From May 1973, Steele's contacts were made use of by his successor, SIS officer Michael Oatley. One of his earlier contacts with Duddy was in March 1974 , and through their co-operation a secret channel was created that enabled a dialogue between the British government and MI6, and Sinn Féin and the IRA. In this way, "Duddy played a central role in the secret communication and negotiation around the IRA ceasefire of 1974/1975, in the secret negotiations between the British government and the Provisional Republican leadership in 1990-1993, and at several other key junctures in the conflict."

Even during those phases when the British government were committed to keeping the channel open, there were forces in the government, in the army and in the secret service, more inclined to repressive policies and more sympathetic to Unionism, and secrecy about the "channel" was always a priority. Various aliases were used for Duddy, apart from "the link"; "Mr Brown" and "June" are only two of them. Other initiatives for dialogue were made all through the period, some publicised and some not, but having one direct link trusted by both sides was a crucial condition for any effective dialogue to carry on. Other people were involved in Duddy's work, but he seems to have been the principal intermediary. Two other associates were a man whose identity will be withheld for reasons of sensitivity, code-named "Pony Man", as well as Denis Bradley.

Besides Oatley, other British agents that Brendan Duddy liaised with closely before 1993 were one man here code-named "Rob" (see his farewell note of 16 July 1975 ), Donald Middleton, and "Fred" (alias Colin Ferguson/ Robert McLarnon, active from 1991, especially February to December 1993). Middleton did not leave a large paper trail in Duddy's papers and is the only British agent of note for whom no separate file was kept by Duddy. On the Republican side, Duddy had some indirect access to the Provisional Army Council (PAC), and gained information on meetings between the PAC and the British. For the 1990s, Martin McGuinness ("Walter" in the archives) was the principal point of contact.

These papers show how Duddy and Oatley kept the channel open informally during the decade of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, when a direct contact with the Provisional IRA was not pursued by the government. Duddy did become active, however, during the hunger strikes in 1981, by first liaising with Oatley. In January 1991, Duddy sparked a re-entering of talks by informally bringing together Oatley and McGuinness in a friend's house, just before Oatley retired.

For all of 1993, the link with the British government was facilitated by Duddy and a new MI5 officer mostly named "Fred" or "Robert". The archives contain a paper record of events of that year called "The Narrative": this record was dictated by Duddy to either of his sons-in-law shortly after the events, if sometimes out of sequence. The reopening of talks in 1993 hinged on a "bogus" conciliatory message from unsubstantiated sources but allegedly sent by Martin McGuinness/Sinn Féin to London in February. Once the purport of the message and its repercussions were made known to Sinn Féin and to the IRA in November, Duddy was interrogated, and although it was ruled out that he was behind the message, it was thought better to drop the link. The message from Sinn Féin officially closing the channel was relayed to London by Duddy himself, for lack of another trusted intermediary.

Duddy continued observing the peace process closely, sending commentary and preparing strategy papers, usually relayed to Martin McGuinness. In 2004 he testified to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry (testimony AD199). Duddy's long observation of policing matters culminated in his membership of the Nothern Ireland Policing Board (April 2006- May 2007). He has been involved with non-governmental agencies observing developments in Israel and Palestine.
CodePersonNameDatesParallel forms of name
DS/UK/34Ó Brádaigh; Ruairí (1932-2013); Irish Republican political leader1932-2013
DS/UK/13Duddy; Brendan (1936-2017); Mr.; Intermediary, Pacifist, Businessman, Key figure in Northern Ireland Peace Process1936-2017
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