Cillefoyle Park 

Cillefoyle Park: Secret Negotiations for a Ceasefire is about a social activist, who holds secret talks with a British agent at the height of the Troubles in the 1970s. He is torn between the possibility of politics and the violence exploding on the streets of Derry. An innocent friendship with a neighbour, a schoolteacher, leads them both into a precarious web of secrecy and intrigue with all sides of the endless conflict. Caught in a nightmare world of secret negotiations for a ceasefire, his life spins on the edge of clandestine friendship, love, meetings and certain death at any wrong turn. It is a constant struggle with his conscience and the challenge of simply staying alive. Cillefoyle Park is a fictional account of the peace-maker, Derry man Brendan Duddy.

It is based on his papers and other research of the time, including the author living through that period in Derry of the 1970s. For further details of his role and the notes he kept, click here. The collection has been archived and placed online. It states, ‘Throughout twenty years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland, a secret channel of communication linked the IRA to the highest levels of the British government. At the heart of this channel was a single intermediary, Brendan Duddy. His house was the venue for secret negotiations between the British Government and the IRA throughout 1975. He managed the intense negotiations over the Republican hunger strikes in which ten men died (1980-1981) and he was at the heart of the contacts (1991-1993) that culminated in a secret offer of a ceasefire that was a precursor to the public IRA ceasefire of 1994’. Buy the books here

This ongoing contact laid the foundation for the current power-sharing executive that is now under immense pressure to survive. It also laid the foundation for my book - Cillefoyle Park. The book utilises his papers for a fictional account of the negotiations for a ceasefire and life in Derry in the 1970s during the peak of the violence. There was also the fight for a university, the civil rights movement, an IRA Supergrass and the activities of social campaigner, journalist and writer, Eamonn McCann.

Brendan Duddy was a Derry business man - a fish and chip shop owner – a Republican but also a passionate pacifist. He felt there had to be a way to forge an accord between the IRA and the British Government instead of the continuing brutal violence on the streets of Northern Ireland. He developed a back-channel between them. During 1993 a series of messages between the back-channel and the British Government led to a message ‘conflict is over’. Supposedly from the IRA, and asking the British Government to help lay the plans for a negotiated settlement. McGuinness felt the ‘the Contact’ or ‘Fred’ overstepped their remit. It led to Duddy being ‘interrogated’ by four leading Republicans, McGuinness was the main interrogator. Duddy felt, if he hadn’t convinced them that he was genuine in his attempts at developing a path for peace, and not acting as some sort of British agent, he would not have left the interrogation alive. The link was also used for a ceasefire in the mid-70’s and as stated before, during The Hunger Strike. This event prompted Sinn Fein to move towards electoral politics. Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister at that time, thought the IRA was playing their last card over the prison issues. The book uses this  back-channel as a backdrop to 1970s Derry. Dermot Lavery, a social activist and barman in an IRA pub, finds himself in a quandary when an innocent friendship with a neighbour – Harry, a schoolteacher leads them both into a precarious web of secrecy and intrigue. Most of the action takes place in a fictional Derry street - Cillefoyle Park - at the height of the Troubles. It is also a portrait of the city itself.

Brendan Duddy, with Bernadette, his aide-de-camp, had a role as intermediary between the IRA and the British Government. Duddy kept notes and a diary of these meetings since the 1970s which were deposited in the New University of Ireland, Galway in 2009. This is one of the sources for Cillefoyle Park. The collection has been and placed online and in the James Hardiman Library Archives, click on its website. Derry Journal interview here    

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                                                                                                                                                © Hugh Vaughan 2023

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