Papers on secret IRA talks to be made public

 

DETAILS OF the secret talks between the British government and the IRA in the mid 1970s and early 1990s are due to be made public at a conference in NUI Galway today.

The details are recorded in the personal papers of Derry fish-and-chip shop owner Brendan Duddy – dubbed the “secret peacemaker” by the BBC documentary made by British journalist Peter Taylor.

Mr Duddy’s papers were donated to the university two years ago and include notes, documents and previously unseen diaries of negotiation, along with interviews with him.

A number of prominent figures, including former Irish diplomat Seán Ó hUiginn, former senior British government official Michael Oatley and Prof Paul Arthur, honorary associate at the International Conflict Research Centre, have been invited to attend the conference at the university’s James Hardiman library today.

NUI Galway politics lecturer Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh describes the personal archives as being of “great historical significance to all on the island of Ireland and beyond”.

Codenamed “Contact”, Mr Duddy maintained a secret channel of communication linking the British government to the IRA army council for 20 years. Both sides held intensive peace talks in the mid- 1970s and attempted to reach a negotiated settlement to the 1980-1981 hunger strikes.

Dialogue resumed again in the early 1990s, leading to the IRA ceasefire of 1994 and the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

The channel involved successive British prime ministers from Labour’s Harold Wilson to Conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Its identity was “so closely guarded that it was kept secret from other members of the British cabinet”, according to Dr Ó Dochartaigh.