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Frank Durkan Papers

Call Number



1920, 1970-2005, inclusive


Durkan, Frank, 1930-2006
Durkan, Monica (Role: Donor)


35.75 Linear Feet in 34 record cartons, 1 oversize flat box, and 2 media boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


Frank Durkan (1930-2006) was a New York-based Irish American attorney active in legal cases and human rights issues related to Northern Ireland. He was a central player on the U.S. end of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, particularly in his role as Chairman of the political pressure group Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA). The papers reflect those activities, including the granting of a visa to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in 1994, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and decommissioning efforts down to 2002 document his work as an attorney with O'Dwyer & Bernstien law firm in New York. Durkan was widely consulted on deportation and extradition cases involving Irish Americans living in the United States and the collection documents the defense efforts mounted on behalf of his clients, particularly between 1991 and 2001. The collection also contains material of a personal nature on topics of interest to Durkan, including the Great Famine in Ireland, shipwrecks of Irish coming to the Americas, his membership and activities in the Irish History Roundtable and a collection of his books, legal, history and sports-related. A small amount of audio visual material completes the collection.

Historical Note

Frank Durkan (1930-2006), a native of Co. Mayo, was a New York-based Irish American attorney active in legal cases and human rights issues related to Northern Ireland. He was a central player on the U.S. end of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, particularly in his role as Chairman of the political pressure group Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA). In addition, Durkan was widely consulted on deportation and extradition cases involving Irish Americans living in the United States; his papers document the defense efforts mounted on behalf of dozens of men, particularly between 1991 and 2001.

Francis Patrick Durkan was born in Bohola, Co. Mayo, Ireland on 13 August 1930, the second son of Bernard Durkan, a teacher, and Mary Rose O'Dwyer. He was educated at St. Nathy's in Ballaghadereen, Co. Mayo until emigrating (at age 17) to New York City in 1947, where two of his maternal uncles William and Paul O'Dwyer were already prominent members of municipal government and legal circles. Durkan earned his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1951 followed by a law degree from New York Law School in 1953. He worked for the family firm of O'Dwyer & Bernstien, starting as a clerk and rising to senior partner. During his distinguished law career, he represented cases of injury, negligence, and malpractice but became best known for his work defending Irish Americans in civil rights matters related to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

He succeeded in preventing the extradition of Desmond Mackin in 1981 – that decision is a landmark in the field of Extradition Law – and successfully defended the Fort Worth Five in 1973 and George Harrison in 1982 against charges of gun-running for the Provisional IRA. He was also consulted on several other important deportation, extradition, and Irish prisoner cases that followed the Harrison trial, including Joe Doherty who was represented by Steve Sommerstein and Mary Pike between 1982-1992.

Frank Durkan cut his socio-political eye-teeth at the elbow of his uncle Paul O'Dwyer, a towering figure in the Mayo Society of New York, the United Irish Counties Association, the American League for an Undivided Ireland, and the Irish Institute. Paul O'Dwyer (1907-1998) was also President of the New York City Council (1974-1977). His uncle, William O'Dwyer (1890-1964) was mayor of New York City from 1946-1950.

Durkan was known and respected across a spectrum of the New York Irish community through some of these same organizations. In addition, he was a founding member of the Brehon Law Society of the City of New York (est. 1978) and the Irish American Unity Conference (est. 1983), both dedicated to working towards the extension of human rights in the north of Ireland. In 1992 Durkan helped organize Irish-Americans for Clinton-Gore with Congressman Bruce Morrison (D-CT), the co-sponsor of H.R. 4300 (Immigration Act of 1990), as its first Chairman. After the election of President Bill Clinton, this group became Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA), a less partisan and more inclusive organization that monitored the Clinton Administration's Irish campaign promises, worked closely with the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs in Congress, and was a key player in the Northern Ireland peace process. Durkan had been Chairman of ANIA for four years when he was the Mayo Society of New York's Millennium Honoree and 'Mayo Man of the Year' in 2000. The history of the peace process in Northern Ireland, as it has been written since 1998, focused on 'stars' like George Mitchell, Jean Kennedy Smith, and William J. Flynn. The intense, behind-the-scenes work of groups like ANIA has been overlooked. The Frank Durkan Papers offer insight into the significant network of key relationships and perseverance in the United States that enabled dialogue to begin and continue in the north of Ireland during the 1990s.

Frank Durkan died on November 16, 2006 due to complications from a lung infection. He was survived by his wife, Monica Goggin, and daughters Mary Louise and Aisling.

Scope and Contents

This collection document the professional work and social and organizational activities of Frank Durkan. Durkan was a lawyer in the firm O'Dwyer & Bernstien and the materials in the collection contain papers from significant cases in his career, including Desmond Mackin, George Harrison, and the Brooklyn Five. His membership and involvement in organizations such as Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA) and the Behon Law Society, as well as other activist organizations focused on conflict in Northern Ireland are also present. Durkan was also widely consulted on deportation and extradition cases involving Irish Americans living in the United States; his collection illustrates the defense efforts mounted on behalf of dozens of men in this situation, particularly between 1991 and 2001.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open to researchers with the exception of files including attorney work-product and attorney-client privileged information. These folders are marked "RESTRICTED" and have been physically separated from the collection, but are intellectually arranged within their appropriate series and/or subseries.

Conditions Governing Use

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by Frank Durkan were transferred to New York University in 2008 by Monica Durkan. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive. Please contact

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Frank Durkan Papers; AIA 008; box number; folder number; Archives of Irish America, Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Location of Materials

Materials are stored off-site and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two days prior to research visit.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Monica Durkan in 2007; additional accessions were donated in 2014 and 2018. The accession numbers associated with these gifts are 1997.039, 2014.006, and 2018.111.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Access to audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Related Archival Materials

George Harrison Papers (AIA 009)

Jane Conlon Muller Oral History Collection (AIA 012)

Irish Immigration Reform Movement Records (AIA 016)

Irish Institute Papers (AIA 020)

Irish Republicanism Collection (AIA 022)

Patrick Daughton Collection (AIA 055)

Paul O'Dwyer Papers (AIA 069)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:27:35 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid is in English

Processing Information

In 2014, an addition to the collection was processed and integrated into the existing series and subseries structure; therefore, the intellectual arrangement and physical arrangement of materials does not always correspond. Part of the collection was heavily damaged by mold and water. These materials were quarantined, appraised, and either destroyed or cleaned. Moldy materials that were published or available from other sources were destroyed. During the arrangement and description of the collection, materials were reviewed for the following circumstances: attorney-client privilege, attorney work-product, and the presence of sensitive, personally identifiable information. Materials that were deemed to fall under these categories have been closed to researchers.

The collection was rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes, and described by an archivist. Extensive duplicates were discarded if not annotated.

Revisions to this Guide

September 2018: Updated by Megan O'Shea to incorporate items from accession number 2018.111
January 2020: Updated by Kelly Haydon to state some audiovisual materials have been digitized and are accessible to patrons.


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
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