Belfast Telegraph

Influential MI6 officer was director of Northern Ireland hotel

Former MI6 officer Michael Oatley was also director of a Londonderry hotel
Former MI6 officer Michael Oatley was also director of a Londonderry hotel
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The most influential MI6 officer to have worked in Northern Ireland was a director of a hotel in Londonderry until last year.

Michael Oatley is listed at Companies House as a director of the Strand Hotel/Holiday Inn Express Derry-Londonderry from 2015 until last October.

A correspondence address in Somerset, England, is given for the former senior intelligence officer, who has other current business interests in Northern Ireland.

Mr Oatley developed a secret channel of communication with the Provisional IRA leadership which, after 20 years, finally resulted in the 1994 ceasefire.

The link man between the IRA and the British was prominent Derry businessman, the late Brendan Duddy, who built an extensive property empire while also working as a secret peacemaker.

Mr Duddy, who died two years ago, was a director of the Strand Hotel/Holiday Inn Express from 2012 until 2014. The Belfast Telegraph has contacted the hotel for comment on Mr Oatley's previous directorship.

The 83-year-old former MI6 officer attended Mr Duddy's funeral. Both men were at various times referred to as 'The Mountain Climber' in secret correspondence.

Mr Duddy arranged a face-to-face meeting for the intelligence officer with IRA commander Martin McGuinness in 1991 which encouraged the development of the peace process. In the extraordinary chain of events that led to the IRA ceasefire, the Derry businessman passed messages and arranged meetings between the two sides.

The secret channel of communication originally opened in the mid-1970s but at times lay dormant.

The process resumed during the 1980 and 81 hunger strikes. Mr Duddy told veteran BBC journalist Peter Taylor how he and Mr Oatley had discussed the importance of securing an IRA ceasefire.

He said he was "delighted" and "a happy man" to see Mr McGuinness as deputy First Minister, and Sinn Fein sharing power with the DUP.

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