“a board of governors, just like ICI..”

Journalist Peter Taylor’s programme on one part of the back channel between the UK government and the Provisional IRA is due to be broadcast next week, ahead of his four part series on the history and development of modern terrorism, and interviews with Brendan Duddy have been appearing in a number of places. Peter Taylor’s previewing article is here [and provides this post’s title]. But while the Guardian report refers to those who questioned Brendan Duddy in 1993 about the contested message from Martin McGuinness to the UK government, that the “conflict is over”, as four “very senior Provisionals” [quoting Duddy], the Belfast Telegraph report on their interview with Duddy has this to say

The Belfast Telegraph understands that when questioning Mr Duddy, Mr Adams was accompanied by three other senior republicans – now Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness, his junior minister Gerry Kelly and party Vice President Pat Doherty.

There’s one other point of interest to note, although it might be entirely coincidental.

According to this extract from Jonathan Powell’s book.

MI5 insisted that the operation had to be mounted by one of their staff and found a retired senior SIS officer who had recently been re-employed by the security service. This officer introduced himself to Duddy (who named him “Fred”) and took over running the link.

The link served a useful purpose, not least in focusing the British government’s mind on what they wanted, but it really took off when, in February 1993, “Fred” brought back a message purporting to come from Martin McGuinness. The message contained the following: “The conflict is over but we need your advice on how to bring it to an end. We wish to have an unannounced ceasefire in order to hold a dialogue leading to peace. We cannot announce such a move as it will lead to confusion for the volunteers because the press will interpret it as surrender. We cannot meet the secretary of state’s public renunciation of violence, but it would be given privately as long as we were sure that we were not being tricked.”

‘Fred’, as Peter Taylor mentioned in this previous report, was actually known as ‘Robert’.

The current head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, was involved “in Irish-related counter terrorism during the late 1980s and 1990s” and according to one report preferred to be known as ‘Bob’.