The death has taken place of one of Derry’s best known businessmen who played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Brendan Duddy passed away after a long illness. He was aged 80.

A pacifist and firm believer in dialogue, Mr Duddy became known by MI6 as "The Contact" during secret talks between the IRA and the British Government.

In his book “Great Hatred; Little Room – Making Peace in Northern Ireland,” Tony Blair's political advisor, Jonathan Powell, described him as the "key" which led to discussions between republicans and MI6.

Mr Duddy started out running a fish and chip shop in the city the 1960s and went on to establish a number of licensed premises and clothing outlets in the city.

In light of the dissolution of Stormont in 1972, his role as an intermediary started in January that year, when he was asked by Derry's chief police officer, Frank Lagan, to persuade the Official IRA and Provisional IRA to remove their weapons from the Bogside.

In the aftermath of the events and repercussions of Bloody Sunday, MI6 agent Michael Oatley arrived in Belfast in 1973, to create a communications channel between the IRA and the British Government, Mr Duddy becoming the go between, the Derry man suggesting steps which could be taken to give the Provisional IRA a way of ending the strike.

Following a meeting arranged between Martin McGuinness and Oatley in 1991, talks between the Derry republican and representatives of the British Government were held secretly in Mr Duddy’s home on Glen Road in the city.

Following the end of The Troubles, Mr Duddy served as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and helped broker negotiations related to the marching season.

He also testified to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

On 26 March 2008, the BBC broadcast a documentary entitled The Secret Peacemaker about Mr Duddy, directed by Peter Norrey, and presented by renowned journalist Peter Taylor who had known him was 'the link' for ten years.

In the Spring of 2009, Mr Duddy donated his private archives to the James Hardiman Library at Galway University.

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