The Brendan Duddy Archive’s ( Part 1) -1975 Cease-fire !

NEW: The 1981 Hunger strike documents now include the full text of the ‘Red Book’ outlining in detail the progress of the secret negotiations between the IRA and the British government to end the Republican hunger strike of 1981. They also include a transcript of the text.
The selected documents are taken 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 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. The selected documents highlight the secrecy and tension involved in this communication and negotiation and add significantly to our understanding of this crucial interface between the British state and the IRA.
Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh

1975 Cease-fire


We know the Provisionals fear we may be stringing them along, January 1975 Download image

In early 1975 British officials and Republican representatives secretly negotiated the terms of an IRA ceasefire that came into force in February and lasted for most of that year. Most accounts of the ceasefire argue that the British duped the IRA into calling a ceasefire and strung them along in order to weaken them militarily. This message, sent by the British in late January, contains the striking line ‘We know that the Provisionals fear that we may be stringing them along’. It indicates not only that the IRA was aware of this danger even before the ceasefire, but that the British were also aware of this fear on the part of the IRA. The final line reads ‘We are not at this stage able to meet Mr. David O’CONNELL [emphasis in original] himself. But we assume that he is now personally directing the dialogue. Is this so?’ O’Connell was a wanted man at the time. It indicates that even though the British felt it was too sensitive to talk to him directly, they wanted to be reassured that this key figure was personally directing the talks and that the Provisional negotiators had his support. If there was to be a settlement and a permanent end to the IRA campaign his support was essential.


(1) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

The formal and courteous tone of the letter, addressed personally to the British Prime Minister of the time, Harold Wilson, is striking, indicating the desire of the Provisionals to behave in a properly diplomatic way during these contacts. But the letter is striking too for the emphasis on securing ‘an honourable and permanent end to this conflict’. Given the emphasis on the word ‘permanent’ after the IRA ceasefire of 1994, it is interesting to note that the word appears three times in this short message. There is no reference to Irish reunification or the political goals of the Provisionals but the emphasis is placed instead on their ‘sincerity to explore every avenue to secure’ a ‘permanent’ end to the conflict. Duddy’s personal diary for the period indicates intense and prolonged negotiation between the two sides over the twelve points included in this letter.


(2) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

(3) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image

(1) Don’t call us, we’ll call you, February 1975 Download image


With Many Thanks To :Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh,  The James Hardiman Library.

And also many Thanks to : National University of Ireland Galway.


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