NUI Galway Home to Exclusive Archive Surrounding the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’

Photograph of Brendan Duddy courtesy of University of Ulster
Nov 10 2011 Posted: 11:57 GMT

Launch of the Brendan Duddy Collection and Symposium on ‘Negotiating Peace’

During three extended periods between 1973 and 1993 the British government was involved in intensive secret contact with the IRA leadership through the same intermediary, Brendan Duddy, a businessman from Derry. During the first period Duddy’s home was the venue for a series of secret meetings in 1975 between the IRA leadership and senior British officials. During the second period, in 1980-81, Duddy was at the centre of intricate negotiations aimed at resolving the hunger strikes, and between 1990 and 1993 he was intensely active in contacts between the British government and the IRA. The launch of the Brendan Duddy Archive will take place on Tuesday, 22 November at NUI Galway following a half-day symposium Negotiating Peace.


Deposited at NUI Galway in 2009, the papers of Brendan Duddy provide a unique insight into the resolution of the ‘Troubles’. 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.


Speaking about the Brendan Duddy Collection, Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Lecturer in Politics at NUI Galway, said: “The papers of Brendan Duddy provide a unique insight into the resolution of the 'Troubles'. At a time when there is intense public debate on the value of negotiation with armed opponents in situations such as Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine, the Duddy 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 Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh. The interviews cover the key historical events in which Brendan Duddy was involved. A series of articles published recently by Dr Ó 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 recently published or shortly to be published 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.


Dr Ó Dochartaigh added: “The papers illustrate the extraordinary pressures operating at this pivotal intersection between the British Government and the Provisional Republican leadership. They show the remarkable persistence and consistency of Brendan Duddy’s conviction that the conflict could only be ended through a negotiated settlement that included the Provisionals. From the early 1970s Brendan Duddy worked determinedly and in complete secrecy to try to draw the two sides closer together, a lifetime’s work that eventually came to fruition in the negotiated settlement of the late 1990s.”


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


Speaking at the symposium will be BBC investigative reporter Peter Taylor, one of the most experienced and respected journalists to have reported on Northern Ireland;

Seán Ó hUiginn, a 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 central figure involved in attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Northern Ireland conflict; 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.


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 Ulster’s Conflict Archive on the Internet) and NUI Galway’s library website.


John Cox, University Librarian at NUI Galway, commented: “The deposit of the papers at NUI Galway is thanks to the generosity and kindness of Brendan Duddy and his family who placed a great deal of trust in the University and its archive services to take care of the papers. This is a very significant addition to our archival collections and we are delighted to make it available to researchers following a detailed process to organise and list the collection. We will ensure the safe keeping of Brendan Duddy’s papers for future generations of scholars and researchers.”


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'.


To register for the symposium see




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