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Capo di Tutti i Capi?: The Three Families
3 Part Series

Bridie McCloskeyDanny McBearty The Civil Rights Veterans

Danny McBearty’s Story
The big thieves hang the little ones - Czech Proverb

Anthony McIntyre

Our Donegal encounter with Danny McBrearty, in addition to being our first interview of the day, was warm and friendly. We had earlier met a republican friend at Free Derry Corner and after following his car for a few miles we arrived at Danny's home. His hospitality was as strong as his spirits were high. Despite being in considerable pain and having to negotiate his way from one part of his house to another on crutches, his attitude was of the type you would expect to get from him if you were playing a game of pool in a bar with him - plenty of banter and wit. His left leg remains heavily plastered but we were able to see the wounds in his right. Being squeamish I opted out of playing the role of a doubting Thomas and refrained from touching them with my finger. The sight of them alone looked real enough to me.

In a room of his house in front of a warm coal fire we sat and yarned while his partner made tea and sandwiches. I had met so many Derry men in jail that I felt totally comfortable with this one. Those who came through the cages, blocks and remand wings of Britain’s political prisons and who did not worship that horrible little god called ‘ambition’ were the best of men. The others, well ... I could just imagine Danny with his devil-may-care outlook and disdain for the ‘sacred’ crossing their path.

'So what caused you to fall foul of the local power structure?' I asked him almost rhetorically. Danny revisited the background of the Joseph McCloskey story. He added that on the night of the fight in Jackie Mullen's pub:

from the talk about town, the Provos had been fighting with other republicans in bars in the city. They had also been around threatening bar staff for allowing money to be collected on their premises for republican prisoners and their attempts to intimidate people led to friction. Some people just won't give in to their threats and bullying. They were in nasty form and were looking people to take it out on. Joe's run-in with somebody who said he was the Education Minister's son a few weeks earlier had made him a likely target for their anger.

The first Danny knew of the matter was when he received a phone call from a very distressed Joseph McCloskey. Joseph explained that the IRA had threatened to shoot both him and his brother. Danny was initially sceptical and said to Joseph that while they had grown more corrupt over the years particularly since the ceasefires he had never heard of them going this far before over a fight in a bar. He explained to us:

there are fights in bars all the time without any of this type of follow up thing happening. But I suppose I should have seen that this was the way things were moving. The behaviour of the Provos in this town is in stark contrast to what Eamonn Lafferty (an early IRA leader killed in Derry in 1971) and his comrades represented. Then it was politics and struggle, now it is gangsterism and profit.

So had he now no time for republicanism?

I am still a republican and would have a lot of time for many republicans. For about ten years right at the heart of the troubles I drove the bus up to the prisons to ensure that none of the boys went wthout their visits or parcels but I have no time whatsoever for the hoods who are running this city. There are three families of them and they want to keep everybody else under control. The situation is now so bad that it seems people will have to rise once again to get these gangsters off our backs. This is the way cannibals behaved centuries ago. There has to be a better way of handling matters like this rather than brutalising and beating people who cross the paths of those with the power in this city.

There is an image generated within republican communities that the type of violent intimidation experienced by the McCloskey family only takes place in UDA dominated areas. And Danny, still unconvinced that the matter was a serious as Joseph feared, decided to sound out a member of the Provisional IRA in the city. The latter found it hard to believe that his comrades were now reduced to 'using the name' in bar room brawling and drunken intimidation.

Things then seemed to settle a bit but only in the manner of the calm before the storm. Joseph and Danny had spent a weekend shooting in Donegal. They had barely returned and deposited the shotguns in Joseph's house when Danny, by now in his Donegal home, received a phone call from his nephew. In a state of agitiation Joseph explained how he had just been phoned from the bar. A number of armed IRA members were there and were threatening to shoot him. Danny explained that he would visit his IRA contact and ask him what truth there was in this. The volunteer who Danny met with said he had heard nothing. Danny then proceeded to Joseph's home to reassure him, collect his shotgun and then make his way home to Donegal. Danny claims that he was about to leave Derry for home shortly before 11 in the evening when he heard 'roars and shouts' outside the house. Shortly after hearing 'this is the 'RA', the door was battered with sledgehammers. Danny called on the assailants to desist as he had arranged for Joseph to go to the Sinn Fein centre the following day. He also explained to them that he was armed. At this point the attackers opend fire into the house. 'I fired back and they retuned my fire.' Danny explained that at least one of those who attacked the home was wounded in the exchange. At this point a stand-off emerged. Danny and two of the McCloskey brothers left the house. As they did they were approached by two hooded men but Danny explained that their disguises were so transparent that he recognised them as 'two prominent members of the IRA. Their guns were pointing at us and ours were pointing at them. They backed off and while making their departure fired their weapons over their shoulders. Two different senior members of the Provisionals later came by Joseph's house while the PSNI were on the scene but the cops didn't bother them.'

An hour after the shooting Danny went to Martin McGuinness and explained what had happened. Allthough initially attentive and polite McGuinness is said to have turned frosty and hostile when Danny explained that he had shot at least one of the attackers. From that point on he felt that he was a marked man. If those within the Provisionals were to take their cue from leaders such as the Education Minister there would be little sympathy or empathy for his position within the ranks. And he marvelled at how Mitchel McLaughlin could continue to deny in barefaced fashion that there was any threat existing against any of the McCloskey family and that there was no evidence of IRA involvement in the attack on the home of Joseph:

During my meeting with Sinn Fein in Cable Street I told them that I could give them the names of 14 men who were involved in the attack. I told them that I had received the list of names from an IRA member deeply unhappy at the way they were behaving. After initially denying that republicans had been involved they accused me of having shot a republican. At that point they got aggressive and wanted to do me there and then, I left. Later in the day a member of the IRA came to me in a friendly manner and advised me to lie low as the IRA were now so angry at having being challenged that they were intent on taking me out.

In spite of this Danny McBrearty remained determined to ensure that the 'Provo hoods' would not disrupt his life. At times cars would pull up in front of the family home in Donegal and the occupants would stare out. It was a form of psychological intimidation. 'It meant we were uneasy for days any time it happened. They were tightening the screws on us all the time'. He also received five or six death threats delivered through associates and family members. The latest one came through a brother to remind him that his defence of the McCloskey household had not been forgot about. Danny had heard that one senior Provisional had stated 'if we let Danny off with this the whole town will turn on us.'

On the day he was finally ambushed and shot Danny McBrearty was driving a bus taking the aged out on a day trip. A car pulled up alongside and one of the occupants said 'we are hijacking this bus for the IRA and we want you off it.' He then hit Danny with a hammer. A struggle ensued as Danny fought for his life. Others who tried to board the bus to kidnap him and bundle him into the car were blocked by the first hammer wielding man with whom Danny was furiously grappling. After shooting him twice in the legs the attackers made off in their own car.

Why, I asked, if they were so intent on killing him he ended up being shot in the legs which while brutal and painful was certainly not fatal?

I don't know. The talk in the bars about the town is that the guy who did the shooting was too 'yellow' to put one in my head. Whether that is true or not I don't know but I am glad that whatever the reason he did not shoot me dead. Buy I am convinced that killing me was the ultimate intention.

Could he not sort the matter out by going to Community Restorative Justice?

CRJ is about the most corrupt form of secret society Ireland has had about it. There is no one that I know of has any faith in CRJ. It is a front for gangsters. It should belong to the people but in this city it belongs to the three families and if you cross them you are in big trouble. Martin McGuinness actually asked me to take it up with them. But he could not have been serious. I just told him there was no chance.

Today, Danny McBrearty sits at home recovering from his injuries. Joseph McCloskey is back in Derry city and for the time being Danny may face little in the way of direct violence although he knows ostracism and hostility will target him for some considerable time to come. Yet it remains a source of concern that a man should be scarred for life simply because he became caught up in a fracas that arose from the activity of a few obsessed with exercising power over their neighbours. There is nothing remotely republican about such behaviour. In fact mounting an armed defence against armed aggressors hammering down the doors of working class families in nationalist communities is a more recognisable republican activity. Clearly as the core values of republicanism are eaten up by the peace process and the old objective of liberation has come to be usurped by the acquisition of power, the space has been created in which those republicans unable to attack the old enemy now direct their authority against their neighbour. And in doing just that they have reproduced and are determined to maintain that classical power deficit described many years ago by two political scientists, Peter Bachrach, and Morton Baratz, as being characterised by:

a set of predominant values, beliefs, rituals and institutional procedures that operate systematically and consistently to the benefit of certain persons and groups at the expense of others. Those who benefit are placed in a preferred position to defend and promote their vested interests.


Capo di Tutti i Capi?: The Three Families

Bridie McCloskeyDanny McBearty The Civil Rights Veterans




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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
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Index: Current Articles

28 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Blanket Special

3 Part Series

Capo di Tutti i Capi?: The Three Families

Part Two: Danny McBearty's Story
Anthony McIntyre


The Price of Peace Is In The Pocket
Davy Carlin


Bastards and Traitors!
Billy Mitchell


Dr. Ruth Inexpert On Sexy "Irish State" Controversy

Paul A. Fitzsimmons


The Letters page has been updated.


24 November 2002


Blanket Special

3 Part Series
Capo di Tutti i Capi?:
The Three Families

Part One: Bridie McCloskey's Story
Anthony McIntyre


A Wilderness of Mirrors
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Revenge of a Child
Uri Avnery


Political Violence's Victims

Paul A. Fitzsimmons




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