Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Duddy played a vital role in peace process

Editor's Viewpoint

If the walls of Brendan Duddy's sitting room could talk, what a story they would tell. For it was in the Londonderry businessman's home over three decades ago that the foundations of the peace process were laid.

Tony Blair said shortly before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that he could feel the hand of history on his shoulder. It is no exaggeration to say that it was placed there by Mr Duddy, who was buried in his native city yesterday.

Of course he was not alone in seeking an end to the horrors of the Troubles, but few can claim to have shown the same doggedness in pursuit of peace over a protracted period of time.

Codenamed the Mountain Climber, Mr Duddy must have often felt he was a modern embodiment of Sisyphus, the figure in Greek mythology condemned to endlessly push a boulder uphill only to see it roll back down again before reaching the summit.

For there were many false dawns in his quest to end the bloodshed, a task he began in the early 1970s and which continued even after the IRA ceasefires of the late 1990s.

He had the foresight to recognise that the republican terrorist campaign would eventually run into a cul-de-sac and that dialogue would be the only way to reach any sort of resolution.

But acting as a conduit between British intelligence services and the IRA leadership - with both sides maintaining a public facade of no talks or negotiations - was a dangerous, nerve-jangling existence as mourners at his funeral heard. At one stage, old-time hardline republican leaders even contemplated killing him fearing he was a intelligence agent.

However, his integrity was so evident that he won the trust of all sides. He got involved in seeking peace simply because it was both the right thing to do and for the good of all. A modest man, in spite of building quite a business empire, he sought neither publicity nor reward for his clandestine role. It was those attributes which made him the perfect go-between.

When the definitive history of this chapter in the existence of Northern Ireland is written - as opposed to the revisionism that is already ongoing - the name of Brendan Duddy deserves to be written large.

As journalist Peter Taylor said, Mr Duddy deserved a Nobel laureate.

Instead his reward was going to his grave knowing that he had saved countless others from an early death.

Belfast Telegraph

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