Hundreds of mourners have attended the Londonderry funeral of a businessman who played a key role in Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Brendan Duddy acted as an intermediary between the government and the IRA, hosting secret talks at his Derry home. He died on Friday after a long illness.
Duddy was not afraid to take risks, mourners were told at his funeral Mass in St Eugene’s Cathedral.
They included ex-SDLP leader John Hume and Irish President Michael D Higgins.
A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said no UK government representatives were at the funeral.
But Michael Oatley, a former MI6 spy, who acted as Mr Duddy’s conduit to the British government, was among mourners.
Mr Duddy, who was 80 and had suffered a stroke in 2010, was at the centre of a chain of events that ultimately led to the IRA ceasefire of 1994 and the Good Friday peace agreement.
Codenamed “Soon”, he was the key link between then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the IRA during the 1981 republican hunger strikes.
“He knew the value of creating and maintaining trust on all sides”, said Fr Chris Ferguson in his homily.
He deserved a Nobel peace prize for his “historic” contribution, said the BBC journalist Peter Taylor, who interviewed Mr Duddy in 2008 about his role in the peace process.
‘Seeds planted through dialogue’
His role as a mediator helped to “allow the seeds planted through dialogue to produce the peace process”, said Fr Ferguson.
He told mourners that Mr Duddy had led a “life dedicated to working for peace” and never sought “recognition or acknowledgement” for the part he played.
“His sole desire was to provide a safe, secure and peaceful future for his family,” said Fr Ferguson.
“Being a husband and father, Brendan had a vested interest in seeing an end to conflict through real and meaningful negotiations.”
Mr Duddy also “possessed the determination and persistence” required to create the “opportunity for dialogue” between the government and the IRA, added Fr Ferguson.
“Brendan worked hard at creating trust, ensuring there would be no disclosures which could have harmed the building of relationships.
“Brendan had a great ability to think outside the box which was so necessary in the infancy of the political discussions in which he was involved.
“He possessed an intuitive ability to understand people.
“Once the talking had started, Brendan knew his job was done.”
Figures from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to Mr Duddy.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, praised Mr Duddy’s work during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.
“In a world of violence, conflict and threats of war, we need more people like Brendan Duddy. Rest in peace,” he tweeted.
Mr Duddy was also well known in the north-west due to his business portfolio, which included property, bars, restaurants and hotels, including Derry’s City Hotel and the Ramada Hotel in Portrush.