Monday 18 December 2017

Once inseparable, now they barely speak

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

AS teenagers they were inseparable. Throughout the early 1960s Susan and Dana, the two Brown sisters from Derry's Bogside, set stages alight with their singing skills.

Both would have success in their lives. Dana was a Eurovision winner by the age of 18 and later as Dana Rosemary Scallon became an MEP.

Susan trained as a nurse, married dentist Ronald Stein, and moved to the US. She would later help set up a record company, Heart Beat, so her sister could crack the US market with her brand of Christian music.

"I was a singer too, but I wasn't as good looking as Dana," said Susan. "When we were growing up together our entertainment was music and going out and giving concerts. We were always together. Dana and I used to do the big shows in Portrush and across the northern counties."

But almost 50 years later the two sisters barely speak to each other. A bitter row over music rights has driven a wedge between them and the explosion of this row on the public stage is hitting Dana's rapidly diminishing hopes of becoming the next president.

The court case, heard in Iowa in 2008, was sparked over the rights to master tapes for Dana's albums.It ended with a private settlement.

"There has been no mending of bridges on a person level. There is no personal relationship whatsoever," Susan Stein told the Irish Independent from her home in Donnellson, Iowa last night.

According to Susan, the row has polarised their four surviving siblings. "It was a very difficult period.

"The Brown family are very tight knit. Our mother always stressed there was nobody more important than our brothers and sisters

"We lived our life that way, helping and supporting and encouraging each other.

"So when something like this happens it is almost unfixable.

"On an emotional family level, things are broken.

Susan rejejcted any suggestion that she had been out to grab control of the record label.

Susan now says the row had its roots in "misconceptions".

The sisters briefly put their differences aside when their mother Sheila was dying in 2009.

Since then, however, there has only been limited contact, all relating to record company business.

"We don't have any correspondence with Dana at all except for matters to do with royalties or if she felt there was a problem or a legal issue.

"If we walked past each other in the hall we would be civil to each other. But we have no personal contact anymore, which is unfortunate. It is very sad."

During the case, Susan claimed Dana had taken out US citizenship before her first tilt at the presidency in 1997.

Dana denied this yesterday, saying she only became a US citizen in 1999.

However, Susan was sticking to her story last night.

"She (Dana) took US citizenship before she was ever in politics. Politics came up after the fact," she said.

Susan said Dana had moved to Alabama to further her music career "somewhere around 1990". Susan said that at the time her sister had intended to make her life in the US.

Dana became eligible to apply for citizenship "three or four years later" and Susan acted as her sponsor, she said.

When Dana later decided to run for the Irish presidency in 1997, Susan claims a decision was made not to openly declare her US citizenship.

"There was a discussion and the decision was not to not say it, but to answer if anybody asked," said Susan.

"So if anybody asked if she had American citizenship the answer was to be yes. But nobody ever asked."

Irish Independent

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