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Frank Durkan

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Frank Durkan, a lawyer and activist who defended Irish-Americans entangled with the law due to their involvement in the politics of the north of Ireland, has died. He was aged 76.
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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 wonderful stories." 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 States.

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, were found not guilty after Durkan convinced 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 attendant.

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 a Gaelic football team and the Irish Institute. He supported Irish Northern Aid, a group some accused of sending arms to the I.R.A., but which he insisted offered only humanitarian aid.

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 Declan.

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