It’s Saturday morning 11am and Cllr. Frank McBrearty has agreed to do a follow-up interview over zoom with M-Compass media because of the massive response to the interview he gave earlier in the week which featured him and Seamus Maye, Chairman, International Small Business Alliance discussing the corruption central to the crumbling concrete scandal.
Off camera ahead of the interview, McBrearty is pleasant, polite and chats about his family, his wife, his children and his parents.
He appears to have a very close bond with his father, Frank Snr, which is unsurprising given that both of them were victims of massive garda corruption in Donegal and elsewhere that led to the six-year long Morris Tribunal, a state apology and compensation for both of them in 2008.
‘Family first’ is McBrearty’s motto and credits his huge work ethic, business acumen and honesty as traits he inherited growing up from his parents who ran a very successful lounge bar, restaurant and nightclub in Raphoe which is still family-run.
He is very appreciative of his wife, Trish who has consistently remained by his side supporting him even when all the odds were stacked against him.
He’s relaxed, good-humoured and looking forward to the three hour journey to Dublin with his son to attend a boxing match.
There isn’t the slightest hint of upset at the decision by Donegal County Council to suspend him for a second time for trying to raise the issue of the crumbling concrete scandal. Last Monday’s suspension from council meetings is for three months with part of his pay docked.
In fact he appears to be up for the fight which is set to be played out in the High Court in the coming months as soon as he issues legal proceedings against the Council.
“You know Mary”, he says before he quickly apologises and corrects himself, “sorry Anna I didn’t mean to call you Mary. Do you know Anna that I was an amateur boxer in my young days?” he says before going on to talk about his lifelong love of the sport which his son now shares with him. As a youngster he trained in the local boxing club in Raphoe which was set up by his father.
The thought crosses my mind that the tactics he learned in the boxing ring carried him through his fight against state corruption from October 1996 following the death of Richie Barron to his vindication in September 2005 when he agreed a compensation settlement of €1.5m which was the largest state payout up to that point.
The fight took its toll on the McBrearty family.
Charlie Bird’s excellent documentary, ‘After the Headlines’ broadcast on RTÉ, December 2017, which examined the human cost of the Morris Tribunal’s 300 days of hearing evidence that exposed ‘corruption and negligence like no other’ featured extensive interviews with the McBrearty family.
Boxers have to be able to read the mind of their opponents, predict their movements and strategise where and how fast to hit to make it effective.
It’s a sport that demands supreme emotional intelligence, endurance and discipline.
McBreaty displayed these traits in abundance during the Morris Tribunal.
His ability to roll with the punches will undoubtedly stand him in good stead in his next battle against state capture and corruption.
It’s time to press record and begin the interview.
He tells me that he’s been inundated with people responding to the interview he gave earlier in the week.
People are slowly waking up to the fact that they have been blindsided by the government and that the legislation underpinning the redress scheme for people whose homes are crumbling is not fit for purpose.
McBreaty gives details of the team around him who are preparing to go to the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of the legislation. They will be arguing that peer reviewed scientific studies show that mica which is the basis for the redress scheme is not the problem, it’s iron sulphides and other minerals not mentioned in the relevant statutory instrument.
On a personal level he is assisting his parents in their High Court test case against the state.
Samples taken from his parents home show that the foundation of their home is crumbling.
He believes this is also the case in almost every other home affected by the scandal.
He is convinced they have a winnable case that will pave the way for the people affected by crumbling concrete to get proper redress.
The test case will be taken against the state because of its failure to legislate for proper standards to police the concrete and aggregate industry, who should, in McBrearty’s opinion be made foot the entire compensation bill rather than taxpayers which is the case under the present scheme.
McBrearty feels that naivety led groups campaigning on behalf of affected homeowners to accept a compensation scheme that is now locking people out of the compensation scheme which wrongly dictates that mica is the problem.
Separately, the Sligo based Maye family were involved in the concrete and aggregate industry across a number of counties from the 1950’s until anti-competitive practices put Seamus out of business in the 1990’s.
Prior to the shutdown of the company. Seamus and his brother supplied concrete for the building of the Intel factory at Leixlip, the Newbridge By-Pass and Roches Stores multi-storey carpark in Galway.
Seamus is now entering the thirty third year of his legal battle against CRH, one of the world’s leading corporations supplying building materials.
Seamus claims that illegal and anti-competitive strategies deployed by CRH put an end to his business.
If this is ever found to be the case, it’s not a first offence for CRH who were fined €530,000 in 2007 by the Polish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for interfering with evidence that Polish authorities were gathering for a price-fixing investigation. In 2020 CRH agreed to pay $100 million to settle allegations that it engaged in anti-competitive practices in the United States.
Speaking to M-Compass media this week Seamus Maye says that his experience of the concrete industry is that it’s very ‘corrupt’.
“The industry has become so powerful it has literally been able to write its own standards,” he said.
Seamus believes that the government is able “to play ducks and drakes” with the groups representing homeowners affected by the scandal because they are “naive” and don’t have the firsthand experience of state corruption and capture that himself and Frank McBrearty has stretching back many decades.
He said Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, the Labour Party and the Green Party have been aiding and abetting to protect the construction materials industry from being held to account for misconduct over many years going back to the 1960’s. He says Sinn Féin are an unknown entity because they have never been in government.
“Sometimes it’s raw naked corruption, sometimes it’s legal corruption,” Seamus said. “The government doesn’t act in the public interest. It acts in the corporate interest,” he explained.
Seamus said that he has witnessed firsthand systemic and endemic corruption for forty years.
He feels outraged by the rejection by fellow County Councillors and groups representing homeowners affected by the concrete scandal of somebody like Frank McBrearty with a proven track record fighting corruption.
“Will we ever make progress in Ireland when someone like Frank McBrearty has the bravery to go forward and become a politician to tackle corruption and this is the treatment he is getting?” Seamus wonders.
Enda Craig from Moville in County Donegal fought a lonely thirty year battle against the Irish state that eventually led to a ruling against the Irish government by the European Commission in 2016 that forced the government to change existing planning laws.
Interestingly, Donegal County Council was a named party in that action.
Enda Craig has been critical of the government’s crumbling concrete redress scheme from the get-go and has been supporting Frank McBrearty’s campaign to get adequate compensation for homeowners.
McBrearty, Maye and Craig collectively, have accumulated almost one hundred years of wisdom derived from fighting state, corporate and legal corruption.
Aristotle is credited with being the first to come up with the idea of synergy, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. McBrearty, Maye and Craig on the same wavelength when it comes to political, legal and corporate corruption is a mighty step forward at the beginning of a battle that will take decades to get adequate compensation for the unfortunate people nationwide who are witnessing their homes crumble and collapse around them.
Frank McBrearty is calling for a public inquiry into the crumbling concrete scandal.
In an eight page statement released on Friday, 31 March 2023 addressed to the the People of Donegal, Cllr McBrearty writes:
“It is certainly not in my McBrearty DNA to step aside from any fight as when my back is to the wall is when I am at my best.”
The two interviews with Cllr McBrearty this week are below.