Unseen Documents Unveiled during Launch of Duddy Archive at NUI Galway

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Pictured at the launch of the Brendan Duddy Archive at NUI Galway where eight unseen documents from the historical papers were unveiled, from left: John Cox, Librarian, NUI Galway; Dr Niall Ó'Dochartaigh, Lecturer in Politics, NUI Galway; Mr Brendan Duddy; President Jim Browne; and University Archivist Kieran Hoare.

Documents highlighting the secrecy and tension involved in communication and negotiation between the British government and the IRA throughout ‘the Troubles’ were today (Tuesday, 22 November) unveiled in NUI Galway at the launch of the Brendan Duddy Archive on campus.


The selected documents include Brendan Duddy’s hand written records of negotiations during the hunger strike and a letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.


Speaking at the launch and on behalf of the Duddy family, Larry Duddy, said: “The family are delighted that the private papers have been donated to NUI Galway. They hope that analysis of these papers will assist current and future generations to understand however complex and how ever long a conflict has gone on with the dedication and commitment shown by Brendan Duddy a resolution can always be found.”


The symposium Negotiating Peace, organised in association with the launch of the private papers of Brendan Duddy, brought together prominent figures from the worlds of academia and diplomacy to explore key questions surrounding the negotiated settlement of violent conflicts, drawing in particular on the experience of negotiation in the Irish peace process.


Symposium speakers inlcuded Seán Ó hUiginn, former senior Irish diplomat who was deeply involved in the Irish government contribution to the peace process; former senior British government official Michael Oatley, a key British official involved in back-channel communication with the Republican leadership over many years; and Professor Paul Arthur, Honorary Associate at the International Conflict Research Centre (INCORE), former Professor of Politics and Director of the Graduate Programme in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Ulster.


Speaking at NUI Galway, Michael Oatley emphasised the need to understand and differentiate between the motivation for differing instances of political violence, and the importance of seeking to establish dialogue. He applauded Brendan Duddy's work as an extraordinary example of what could be achieved by a brave and determined private individual.


The archive holds documents from the three main periods during which Brendan Duddy secretly acted as an intermediary between the British government and the IRA. The first was in the early and mid 1970s when Duddy acted as intermediary during a series of contacts over the release of hostages and the ending of hunger strikes. This contact culminated in the long IRA ceasefire of 1975 during which British government and Provisional Republican representatives held a series of formal meetings in Duddy’s house in Derry. The archive includes his diaries of negotiation in 1975 and 1976 as well as many handwritten and typed messages exchanged between the two sides.


In 1980 and 1981 Duddy acted again as intermediary during the Republican hunger strikes. In July 1981 he began to record these contacts, conducted mainly by telephone, in a red hardbound notebook, the ‘Red book’. The handwritten formal messages that were dictated to Duddy over the phone are interspersed with sparse personal comments and notations indicating how these contacts sometimes stretched through the night and indicating the intensity of the tensions at this negotiating intersection.


Between 1990 and 1993 Duddy was again active at this intersection after a new Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Sir Peter Brooke, made the decision to try to incorporate the Provisionals in a political settlement, an effort continued by his successor Sir Patrick Mayhew. Duddy was called upon again to take up the role of intermediary and his archive includes the messages passed between the two sides as well as his own contemporary ‘narrative’ of the intense contacts of 1993.


Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Lecturer in Politics at NUI Galway explained: “These papers add significantly to our understanding of this crucial interface between the British state and the IRA. The papers show Brendan Duddy’s persistence and determination in pursuing the goal of a peace settlement and an end to the violence over a period of decades.”


Deposited at NUI Galway in 2009, the archive contains over 700 descriptive items of paper and sound archives which have been catalogued by the Library's Special Collections staff and will be available to scholars and bona fide researchers from January 2012.  The archive includes coded diaries of contact as well as messages exchanged between the British Government and the Provisional Republican leadership.


The Duddy papers are directly related to the papers of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, former President of Sinn Féin, which are also held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. Together these archives constitute one of the most important sources for understanding the attempts to resolve conflict in Ireland that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.


President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “We all remember the horror of so much of the news emanating from Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s.  All through that difficult period Brendan Duddy maintained a steadfast conviction that the conflict could only be ended through a negotiated settlement. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for that steadfast commitment to peace.  I would especially like to thank him, on behalf of NUI Galway, for making his Archive available to scholarship, so that others might be inspired and encouraged in the unrelenting work of peace-building, in similar situations internationally."


Research on the papers involves collaboration between NUI Galway’s School of Political Science and Sociology and the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Centre (INCORE) and both institutions will collaborate to make a selection of primary documents from the collection freely available online through CAIN (the University of Ulster¹s Conflict Archive on the Internet) and NUI Galway’s library website.


John Cox, Librarian at NUI Galway: "Clearly this is a collection with huge research potential and I can see us welcoming scholars from far and wide to Galway to work on the archive."


The donation will be held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, home to a range of theatre, literary, historical and political archives. Collections include the archives of the Druid and Lyric Players theatres and of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe; the literary papers of John McGahern and Thomas Kilroy; the Huston Archive and original documents relating to the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Northern Ireland 'Troubles'.




Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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