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.
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 Britains
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
had he now no time for republicanism?
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
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
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.'
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:
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
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.'
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.
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?
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.
he not sort the matter out by going to Community Restorative
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.
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
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.
di Tutti i Capi?: The Three Families
Civil Rights Veterans
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