Frank Durkan (1930 - 2006)
Recently the law firm O'Dwyer and Bernstein hosted an event to honor Frank Durkan for his 50th anniversary of being called to the bar.
Father Colm Campbell of the Irish Center in Long Island City gave the blessing and described Co. Mayo native Durkan as a “wonderful gift” to the Irish American community, and that “only God could know how much Frank has done in the service of others.”
Attorney Brian O’Dwyer revealed that the law firm had looked long and hard for a fitting way in which to honor Durkan, even considering endowing a new training facility for the Mayo football team.
However, he said, they finally settled on endowing a fellowship in human rights at the City University of New York’s Law School, “as it would probably do a lot more good than any training facility for Mayo! That would be throwing good money after bad!” O’Dwyer laughed.
O'Dwyer also read out congratulation messages from New York Senator Hillary Clinton, which came in the form of a Senate resolution, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “That’s the great maturity of Frank Durkan,” said O’Dwyer. “Even the Republicans like him!”
O’Dwyer described some of Durkan’s greatest successes, including the Fort Worth Five case, who were jailed for contempt in Texas for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating an alleged gun-running operation between Mexico and Ireland. The five were released by order of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who determined that the U.S. government was illegally eavesdropping on telephone conversations between Durkan and his clients.
Durkan also led the defense of Desmond Mackin, who defeated Britain’s extradition request in 1981, and he gained international headlines in his successful defense of George Harrison, one of the Brooklyn Five, in 1982. Michael Flannery, Tom Falvey, Donal Gormley and Pat Mullin were the other members of the Brooklyn Five. All were acquitted
In his then-Newsday column last October headlined “Singular Irishman Bids Farewell to the World,” Jimmy Breslin related the following tale involving Durkan’s defense of the activist George Harrison, who died last year.
Harrison had been accused of running guns and, as the case proceeded in federal court in Brooklyn, the prosecutor told the jury that Harrison had been running guns out of this city for the last six months.
Harrison was outraged. His lawyer, Durkan, rose and told the judge, “Your honor, the prosecutor has just charged my client with running guns for six months. My client is deeply insulted. Mr. Harrison has been running guns for the last 25 years at least.” Harrison was acquitted.
Durkan attended Columbia University in New York and completed his law degree at New York Law School. His work has included an array of negligence and malpractice cases in addition to his extensive civil rights work.
Durkan and his wife Monica are active members of New York’s Mayo Society and the Mayo Football Club.
Frankdied on November 16, 2006, aged 76, in Greenwich, Connecticut from complications from RA-induced pulmonary fibrosis. He was survived by his wife, Monica, two daughters, Mary Louise and Aisling, a son-in-law, Stead, and two grandchildren, Brian and Declan.