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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Brendan Duddy

brendan-duddyBrendan Duddy, a businessman from Derry, Northern Ireland who plays a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process, dies on May 12, 2017. A notable Catholic republican, who is a pacifist and firm believer in dialogue, he becomes known by Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) as “The Contact.” In his book Great Hatred; Little Room – Making Peace in Northern Ireland, Tony Blair‘s political advisor Jonathan Powell describes Duddy as the “key” which leads to discussions between republicans and MI6, and ultimately the Northern Ireland peace process.

Duddy runs a fish and chip shop in the late 1960s which is supplied with beef burgers from a supplier whose van driver is Martin McGuinness. He is first approached by MI6 officer Frank Steele in the early 1970s, but turns the approach down.

In light of the dissolution of Stormont in 1972, Duddy’s role as an intermediary starts in January 1972, when asked by friend and Derry’s Chief Police Office Frank Lagan to persuade the Official Irish Republican Army and the Provisional Irish Republican Army to remove their weapons from the Bogside. Both sides comply, but the Official IRA retains a few weapons for defensive purposes. After thirteen unarmed civil rights marchers are shot dead by British Parachute Regiment troops in what becomes known as Bloody Sunday, Duddy warns Lagan, “This is absolutely catastrophic. We’re going to have a war on our hands.”

In the aftermath of the events and repercussions of Bloody Sunday, MI6 agent Michael Oatley arrives in Belfast in 1973 seeking to understand the situation in Northern Ireland and hopefully create a communications channel between the IRA and the British Government. Duddy becomes the go-between for the communications and this leads to the IRA ceasefire of 1975/76.

Duddy and Oatley are the main channel of communications between the British Government and the IRA leadership during the 1981 Irish hunger strike. Duddy is codenamed “Soon” by the British. Over the period of July 4-6, 1981 they exchange many telephone calls, with Duddy urging the “utmost haste” on the part of the British because “the situation would be irreparably damaged if a hunger striker died.” He suggests steps which could be taken to give the Provisional IRA a way of ending the strike. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally amends the text of an offer which is conveyed to the IRA through Duddy, but the British consider the reply unsatisfactory and do not continue to negotiate through Duddy. Hunger striker Joe McDonnell dies the following day.

In November 1991, as his now friend Oatley is about to retire from MI6 service, Duddy calls Oatley to a diner in Derry. When dinner has finished, McGuinness enters the property. During the meeting, McGuinness and Oatley discuss options for moving the situation forward. A few weeks later, Duddy is pursued by a British businessman who wants to create jobs in Derry. In the first meeting, the businessman produces a letter from then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke, introducing the “businessman” as Oatley’s MI6 successor. Duddy calls the MI6 agent “Fred,” and acting as the go-between they successfully negotiate a ceasefire. Talks between McGuinness and representatives of the British government are held secretly in his house.

After the end of The Troubles, Duddy serves as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and helps broker negotiations related to the marching season. He also testifies to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, with regards his role and actions of both sides.

On March 26, 2008, the BBC broadcasts a documentary entitled The Secret Peacemaker about Duddy, directed by Peter Norrey, and presented by Peter Taylor, a journalist who has known Duddy is “the link” for ten years.

In the spring of 2009, Duddy donates his private archives to the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, where they are now available to researchers. They chart his involvement in the peace process from 1972 to 1993, and his ongoing interest, and correspondence relating to Northern Ireland, until 2007. The Brendan Duddy Archive is opened in 2011.

At the age of 80, Brendan Duddy dies at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Derry, Northern Ireland on May 12, 2017.

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Birth of Nell McCafferty, Journalist & Feminist

nell-mccaffertyNell McCafferty, Irish journalist, playwright, civil rights campaigner and feminist, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on March 28, 1944. In her journalistic work she has written for The Irish Press, The Irish Times, Sunday Tribune, Hot Press and The Village Voice.

McCafferty is born to Hugh and Lily McCafferty, and spends her early years in the Bogside area of Derry. She is admitted to Queen’s University Belfast, where she takes a degree in Arts. After a brief spell as a substitute English teacher in Northern Ireland and a stint on an Israeli kibbutz, she takes up a post with The Irish Times.

McCafferty is a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement. Her journalistic writing on women and women’s rights reflect her beliefs on the status of women in Irish society. In 1971, she travels to Belfast with other members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement in order to protest the prohibition of the importation and sale of contraceptives in the Republic of Ireland.

After the disintegration of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, McCafferty remains active in other women’s rights groups, as well as focusing her journalism on women’s rights. Her most notable work is her coverage of the Kerry Babies case, which is recorded in her book, A Woman to Blame. She contributes the piece “Coping with the womb and the border” to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan.

In 1990, McCafferty wins a Jacob’s Award for her reports on the 1990 FIFA World Cup for RTÉ Radio 1‘s The Pat Kenny Show. She publishes her autobiography, Nell, in 2004. In it, she explores her upbringing in Derry, her relationship with her parents, her fears about being gay, the joy of finding a domestic haven with the love of her life, the Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain, and the pain of losing it.

In 2009, after the publication of the Murphy Report into the abuse of children in the Dublin archdiocese, McCafferty confronts Archbishop Diarmuid Martin asking him why the Catholic Church has not, as a “gesture of redemption,” relinquished titles such as “Your Eminence” and “Your Grace.”

McCafferty causes a controversy in 2010 with a declaration in a live Newstalk radio interview that the then Minister for Health, Mary Harney, is an alcoholic. This allegation leads to a court case in which Harney is awarded €450,000 the following year. McCafferty has very rarely been featured on live radio or television in Ireland as a commentator since the incident, despite being ever present in those media from 1990 forward. However, she has been featured on a number of recorded programs.

The Irish Times writes that “Nell’s distinctive voice, both written and spoken, has a powerful and provocative place in Irish society.”

McCafferty receives an honorary doctorate of literature from University College Cork on November 2, 2016 for “her unparalleled contribution to Irish public life over many decades and her powerful voice in movements that have had a transformative impact in Irish society, including the feminist movement, campaigns for civil rights and for the marginalised and victims of injustice.”

McCafferty lives in Ranelagh, an area of Dublin.


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The Bloody Sunday Inquiry Convenes

bloody-sunday-inquiry-1The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the biggest public inquiry in British history, opens properly on March 27, 2000 when formal public hearings begin at the Guildhall in Derry. The Inquiry holds public hearings on 116 days over the year, clocking up more than 600 hours of evidence. The vast majority of the evidence is from eyewitnesses.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, also known as the Saville Inquiry or the Saville Report after its chairman, Lord Saville of Newdigate, is established in 1998 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair after campaigns for a second inquiry by families of those killed and injured in Derry on Bloody Sunday during the peak of ethno-political violence known as The Troubles. The inquiry is set up to establish a definitive version of the events of Sunday, January 30, 1972, superseding the tribunal set up under Lord Widgery in April 1972, and to resolve the accusations of a whitewash that had surrounded it.

The inquiry takes the form of a tribunal established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, and consists of Lord Saville, the former Chief Justice of New Brunswick William L. Hoyt, and John L. Toohey, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia. The judges retire on November 23, 2004, and reconvene once again on December 16 to listen to testimony from another key witness, known only as Witness X.

The results are published on June 15, 2010. The report states, “The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.” It also says, “The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries.”

Saville states that British paratroopers “lost control”, fatally shooting fleeing civilians and those who tried to aid the civilians who had been shot by the British soldiers and that the civilians had not been warned by the British soldiers that they intended to shoot. Saville also says British soldiers should not have been ordered to enter the Bogside area as “Colonel Wilford either deliberately disobeyed Brigadier MacLellan’s order or failed for no good reason to appreciate the clear limits on what he had been authorised to do.”

The report states five British soldiers aimed shots at civilians they knew did not pose a threat and two other British soldiers shot at civilians “in the belief that they might have identified gunmen, but without being certain that this was the case.” It also states that British soldiers had concocted lies in their attempt to hide their acts and, contrary to the previously established belief, that none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers, and that the civilians were not posing any threat. The report finds that Martin McGuinness, “did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire.”

bloody-sunday-inquiry-2On the morning that the report is published, thousands of people walk the path that the civil rights marchers had taken on Bloody Sunday, holding photos of those who had been shot. The families of the victims receive advance copies of the report inside the Guildhall. British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the House of Commons that afternoon where he acknowledges, among other things, that the paratroopers had fired the first shot, had fired on fleeing unarmed civilians, and shot and killed one man who was already wounded. He then apologises on behalf of the British Government.


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Bloody Sunday in Derry, Northern Ireland

bogside-muralBloody Sunday, sometimes referred to as the Bogside Massacre, occurs on January 30, 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Twenty-six unarmed civilians are shot by British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, as they march in protest of internment (imprisonment without trial). Thirteen people are killed on the spot and another dies over four months later as a result of his injuries.

The march, organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Northern Resistance Movement, begins at about 2:45 PM at Bishop’s Field and is to conclude at the Guildhall, in the city centre, where a rally is to take place. There are as many as 15,000 people in the march, with many joining along the route.

As the march makes its way along William Street and nears the city centre, its path is blocked by British Army barricades. The organisers then redirect the march down Rossville Street with the intention of holding the rally at Free Derry Corner instead. Some of the marchers, however, break away from the march and begin throwing stones at soldiers manning the barricades. The soldiers fire rubber bullets, CS gas, and water cannon to try and disperse the rioters and observers report that this rioting is not intense.

Some of the marchers spot British paratroopers hiding in a derelict three-story building overlooking William Street and begin throwing stones at the windows. At about 3:55 PM, the first shots are fired as these paratroopers open fire with real bullets. Civilians Damien Donaghy and John Johnston are shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building. The soldiers claim Donaghy is holding a black cylindrical object.

At 4:07 PM, the paratroopers are ordered to go through the barricades and arrest rioters. On foot and in armoured vehicles, the paratroopers chase people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside. Two people are knocked down by the vehicles. Although Brigadier Pat MacLellan orders that only one company of paratroopers be sent on foot through the barricades and that they should not chase people down Rossville Street, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford disobeys this order. This results in no separation between the rioters and the peaceful marchers.

There are many claims of paratroopers beating people, clubbing them with rifle butts, firing rubber bullets at them from close range, making threats to kill, and hurling abuse. One group of paratroopers take up position at a low wall about 80 yards in front of a rubble barricade that stretches across Rossville Street. Some of the people near the barricade throw stones at the soldiers but they are not close enough to hit the soldiers. The soldiers then open fire on the people at the barricade, killing six and wounding another.

A large group of people flee or are chased into the car park of Rossville Flats, which is like a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high-rise flats. The soldiers open fire, killing one civilian, Jackie Duddy, who is shot in the back, and wounding six others.

Other people flee into the car park of Glenfada Park, which is also a courtyard-like area surrounded by flats. From a distance of approximately 50 yards, the soldiers shoot at people across the car park. Two civilians are killed and at least four others wounded. The soldiers pass through the car park and out the other side. Some soldiers exit the southwest corner, where they shoot and kill two civilians. The remainder exit the southeast corner and shoot four more civilians, killing two.

Only about ten minutes elapse between the time soldiers first drive into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians is shot. Under the command of Major Ted Loden, more than 100 rounds are fired by the soldiers.

Some of those shot are given first aid by civilian volunteers, either on the scene or after being carried into nearby homes. The first ambulances arrive at 4:28 PM. The injured are then driven to the hospital, either in civilian cars or in ambulances. The three boys killed at the rubble barricade are driven to hospital by the paratroopers after, as witnesses claim, they lifted the bodies by the hands and feet and dumped them in the back of their vehicle as if they were “pieces of meat.”

In April 1972, the British government releases a report exonerating British troops from any illegal actions during the protest. The shootings act as a rallying call for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as their numbers swell and Irish indignation over Britain’s Northern Ireland policies grow. As a result, Britain increases its military presence in the North while removing any vestige of Northern self-rule. On July 21, 1972, the IRA explode 20 bombs simultaneously in Belfast, killing British military personnel and a number of civilians. Britain responds by instituting a new court system composed of trial without jury for terrorism suspects and conviction rates exceed 90 percent. No criminal charges have ever been brought against the participating members of the British military.