Friday 19 July 2019

How one family was persecuted by police

Anita Guidera

In 1978, Frank McBrearty left a lucrative business in Scotland and returned to his native Raphoe in Donegal, where he purchased a small pub.

By the early 1980s, Frankie's Nightclub/The Parting Glass was drawing clientele from towns as far away as Derry, Strabane, Letterkenny, Sligo and even Galway and Belfast at the weekends.

But the discovery of the body of a local man, Richie Barron, on a roadside outside the town in October 1996, was to change everything.

Initially, gardai treated it as a hit-and-run, but it was quickly upgraded to a murder investigation.

Rumours swept the town and Mr McBrearty's son, Frank McBrearty jnr, and nephew, Mark McConnell, were identified by gardai as suspects.

Mr McBrearty snr was also arrested and spent 14 days in custody, part of which was spent in hospital under garda supervision.

On the streets of Raphoe, they were openly called murderers.

Gardai then turned their attention to the business, with one garda claimed to have remarked: "It might have taken you 20 years to build it up, but it will take us six weeks to shut it down".

During a six month period in 1997, 57 summonses and 157 charges, mainly for breaches of the licensing laws, were brought against the wider McBrearty family.

There were dozens of hoax bomb scares at the club, resulting in patrons standing out on the street.


Disgruntled customers were encouraged by gardai to take legal action against staff.

Checkpoints were set up as close as 20 metres from the bar and cars searched and checked for tax and insurance.

Mr McBrearty's relentless campaign for justice led to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal, which is ongoing.

Mr McBrearty's family has been fully vindicated of any involvement in the death of Richie Barron. The State has accepted liability in respect of his claim for compensation for loss of business, which concluded in the High Court yesterday.

But his fight for the full truth about what his family has endured is far from over.

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