Category: Archive

Frank Durkan 1930-2006

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Indeed, Durkan was a more than knowledgeable amateur historian with a passion for the stories of both his native land and adopted country.
A visit to Frank’s downtown Manhattan office was like a voyage back to the time of the American Civil War and the Fenians.
The law books seemed to be little more than incidental companions to the historical memorabilia.
But of course they were anything but. Frank Durkan, the attorney, was a legal pit bull with a trapdoor mind.
Ally this with a passionate belief that his native country had been wronged for centuries and the Mayo native evolved, over a period of many years, into one of Irish America’s outstanding advocates and activists, a fearsome legal combatant and courtroom interlocutor.
In delivering Frank’s eulogy at his funeral Mass earlier this week, attorney Brian O’Dwyer, his cousin, told mourners that a jury could always tell the difference between a phony attorney and the real deal.
And before so many juries, Frank Durkan showed himself to be the real deal and then some, a lawyer whose sense of justice was as sharp as the Atlantic air that blows over his family’s native county, Mayo.
On another level entirely, Frank Durkan was a political activist, the kind of man that wiser politicians should always keep close.
Well before the Northern Ireland peace process, a development he embraced with passion and vigor, Durkan knew that without justice in Ireland there would be no peace; without peace there would be no politics; without politics there would never be normality.
With this in mind he set about defending individuals whose fate might have appeared sealed the moment they walked into court.
Perhaps it was his self-effacing manner that resulted in Frank Durkan never being quite famous within the Irish world.
Many have said in recent days, for example, that Durkan would have been an outstanding choice for grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
But then there is another view of the man to the effect that he was not the kind to lead a parade, but more the kind who made sure there always was one.
By way of confirming this, a trawl through the archives of Irish-American publications will not turn up big stories about Frank Durkan himself.
But it will reveal many big stories that he had a role in, sometimes unseen.
It is sad that the one story in which Durkan is the central character is the one telling of his passing.
But we know that Frank would have had it no other way. He was, indeed, a quiet giant, a true and faithful leader of the Irish America.
Ar dheis D

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