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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
November 19, 2006
Frank Durkan, Irish Advocate, Dies at 76
Donal F. Holway/The New York Times, 1971 Frank Durkan
News About Ireland & The Irish
NY 11/19/06 Frank Durkan, Irish Advocate, Dies At 76
AP 11/19/06 Frank Durkan, Defender Of Irish Nationalists, Dies At Age 76
Frank Durkan, Irish Advocate, Dies At 76
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: November 19, 2006
Frank Durkan, who as a lawyer, writer and political
spokesman carved out a reputation as a fierce and clever
defender of Irish nationalists, died on Thursday in
Greenwich, Conn. He was 76.
Donal F. Holway/The New York Times, 1971 Frank Durkan
The cause was complications of a lung infection, his cousin
Brian O'Dwyer said.
Mr. Durkan was a scion of the O'Dwyer political dynasty,
started by William O'Dwyer, who immigrated from County Mayo
in Ireland in 1910 and became mayor of New York.
Mr. Durkan hopscotched among the nation's courtrooms,
fighting tenaciously for the interests and rights of Irish-
Americans who came into conflict with the law because of
their involvement in the tangled politics of Northern
One of his famous clients was George Harrison, the Irish
Republican Army's main gunrunner in the United States for
many years. During Mr. Harrison's trial in 1982, the
prosecutor accused him of having run guns for the previous
Mr. Durkan rose to tell the judge that his client was
deeply insulted, and said, "Mr. Harrison has been running
guns for the last 25 years at least."
The lawyer was able to convince the jury that the Central
Intelligence Agency was behind the scheme. Mr. Harrison and
his four co-defendants, who had been caught with about 50
machine guns and other weapons, were found not guilty.
Mr. Durkan accomplished this legal legerdemain by eliciting
the testimony of Ramsey Clark, the former attorney general,
who said that the C.I.A. routinely denied involvement in
activities they wanted to cover up. Mr. Durkan then
persuaded the jury that the agency's denial in fact
In the 1981 case of Desmond Mackin, whom Britain wanted
extradited to stand trial on charges of shooting one of its
soldiers, Mr. Durkan succeeded by convincing a federal
magistrate that the shooting was a political act. Mr.
Mackin was not extradited because the extradition treaty
between the United States and Britain had a political-
Still another major case involved five Irish-Americans
accused of a gunrunning operation between Mexico and
Ireland in 1970. They were held in contempt of court for
refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in Fort
Worth, and were eventually freed when Justice William O.
Douglas of the United States Supreme Court granted them
bail in 1972.
Mr. O'Dwyer said the challenge Mr. Durkan faced in that
case was persuading his clients not to testify against one
Mr. Durkan was chairman of Americans for a New Irish
Agenda, which was established in 1992 as Irish-Americans
for Clinton-Gore. The name was changed to attract Irish-
Americans regardless of their political affiliation.
Mr. Durkan wrote extensively on political issues in local
Irish-American newspapers and was a supporter of the Irish
Northern Aid committee. Some said the group funneled arms
to the I.R.A., but he insisted the aid was humanitarian.
Francis Patrick Durkan was born in Bohola in County Mayo,
Ireland, in 1930, the second son of two teachers. He
immigrated to New York in 1947 and went straight to Gracie
Mansion, the residence of his uncle William O'Dwyer, the
mayor of New York.
He was put up overnight in grand style, but the next day
another uncle, Paul O'Dwyer, a liberal activist and
Democratic politician who later served as president of the
City Council, took him to a building on 97th Street and
arranged for him to work as a janitor.
Mr. Durkan, who called this "a harsh dose of reality in 24
hours," held jobs as a liquor store clerk and a racetrack
parking attendant, among others. He graduated from Columbia
in 1951 and from New York Law School in 1953, then served
as a clerk for two years at O'Dwyer and Bernstein, the law
firm where Paul O'Dwyer was the senior partner.
In addition to his work on Irish matters, he specialized in
negligence and malpractice cases. He also did some legal
work for the Newspaper Guild of New York.
Mr. Durkan, who lived in Rye, N.Y., is survived by his
wife, the former Monica Goggin; two daughters, Ashling, of
Memphis, and Mary Louise Martin, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.;
and two grandsons.
His involvement with things Irish extended to the
presidency of the Mayo Football Club of New York, a Gaelic
football team, as well as the presidency of the Irish
Institute, which supports Irish organizations.
When openly gay men and women were excluded from
Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day parade, he refused to take
part. In 2004, Newsday reported that he marched instead in
a parade of gay men and women in Queens.
"The Constitution says everybody is equal," he said in an
interview. "I don't have to know much more."
Frank Durkan, Defender Of Irish Nationalists, Dies At Age 76
11/19/2006, 12:46 p.m. ET
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Frank Durkan, a lawyer and activist who
defended Irish-Americans entangled with the law due to
their involvement in the politics of Northern Ireland, has
died. He was 76.
Durkan, who lived in Rye, died Thursday at a hospital in
Greenwich, Conn., after suffering from pulmonary lung
failure, his daughter Mary Louise Martin said Sunday.
"He was the most emotionally generous man you've ever met,"
said another daughter, Ashling Durkan. "He could tell
Known as a fierce defender, Durkan counted among his most
famous clients George Harrison, who for many years was the
main gunrunner of the Irish Republican Army in the United
Durkan's quick wit was on display during Harrison's trial
in 1982. When the prosecutor charged that Harrison had run
guns for the past six months, Durkan told the court his
client was insulted. "Mr. Harrison has been running guns
for the last 25 years at least," Durkan said.
Harrison and four co-defendants, who had been caught with
dozens of machine guns and other weapons, was found not
guilty after Durkan managed to convince the jury that the
CIA was the true culprit behind the scheme.
Durkan was a nephew of William O'Dwyer, a former New York
mayor. He was born Francis Patrick Durkan in Bohola in
County Mayo, Ireland in 1930.
He moved to New York in 1947, but despite the prestige of
his then-mayor uncle, Durkan did not have an easy start. He
held jobs ranging from janitor to racetrack parking
In 1951, he graduated from Columbia University and went on
to get a law degree from New York Law School.
Other clients included Desmond Mackin, whom the British
wanted extradited to face charges of shooting a soldier.
Durkan convinced a federal magistrate in the 1981 case that
the shooting was a political act - meaning Mackin couldn't
get extradited because the agreement between the U.S. and
the British had a political exemption.
Durkan's activism in the Irish community was extensive,
including writing for Irish-American publications and
chairing a group called Americans for a New Irish Agenda.
He also served as president of the Mayo Football Club of
New York, a Gaelic football team, and as president of the
He also supported Irish Northern Aid, a group some accused
of sending arms to the I.R.A., but which he insisted
offered only humanitarian aid.
Outside of Irish-related matters, he also did legal work in
the areas of malpractice and negligence.
Besides his daughters, survivors include his wife, the
former Monica Goggin; his daughters' mother, Lisa Durkan; a
son-in-law, Steadroy Martin; and two grandsons, Brian and
A funeral Mass is planned for Monday at Holy Trinity Roman
Catholic Church in Manhattan. He is to buried at Gate of
Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla.
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