This evening there will be the formal launch of “Abuse of Power-Frank Shortt, a Memoir” in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny at 6 pm.
According to the blurb issued by the communications company handling the launch: “This (book) is a powerful and moving personal story of how Frank Shortt was sent to prison for three years having been falsely accused of allowing illegal drugs to be sold at The Point Inn in Quigley’s Point in Donegal. He was found to be innocent by the High Court and awarded record €4.7m in damages by the Supreme Court.’
Behind that story is another in that ‘the Frank Shortt story’ is one of the most controversial in Inishowen history, dividing opinion in recent times in a way that few other things have done.
Even now after having been totally exonerated by the highest court in the land Frank’s wife, Sally, says that things have never been the same for them in their own community, many people ignoring them or silently thinking ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ in that they still believe there was no way the gardai would stitch up innocent people.
And that brings us back to Frank’s book.
This week he told the ‘Journal’: “I’m trying to get my story out there - the full story. Despite all the publicity and the all the rest people still kept asking me, ‘what really did go on?’.
“This is my attempt to explain to people what happened in a factual, straight forward way.
“It’s costing me a lot of money to publish this book - I have no doubt big publishing houses would have been interested in it but they would have wanted to put their own editorial slant on it and I didn’t want that. I want the plain unvarnished truth to go out.
“I have spent a lot of time on it, and I got the final draft ‘legalled’ by two senior counsel. It was expensive and time consuming but I wanted what I regard as the definitive version of the story out there.”
So were the gardai wrong about drug dealing in the Point Inn? Is he a totally innocent man?
“I’ll answer the first part first - there was most certainly drug dealing in the Point Inn. We knew that, and the Gardai knew that as it was me who told them.
“The Point Inn at that time was not unique. There wasn’t an entertainment venue in the country that didn’t have drug dealers posing as punters. I was aware of their activities. I was keeping a close eye on it. Indeed, I was able to detect a few people dealing and I handed them over to the guards but nothing ever came of it.
“What I never saw coming was when the gardai raided my premises the whole agenda was about finding me guilty. I was running my business to the best of my ability, so the last thing I expected was that the gardai would arrest me as a drug dealer. But that’s what happened. They framed me for something outside my control.That still shocks me to this day.”
So were the claims that the management deliberately turned off water in the premises and filled up water supplies by tanker each week to make money of those on ecstasy an urban myth, complete rubbish?
Sally Shortt reacted angrily to that:“It most certainly is complete rubbish. Here’s the truth - most nights the water supply in Quigley’s Point ran out because the water supply back then was atrocious. Within hours of the Point opening the toilets would be blocked. In fact, I don’t mind if you tell it publicly that I, ‘Sally the Janitor’ had to go into the toilets, put on gloves and try and unblock toilets filled with s... We had to fill water tanks each week. Had we not had them we would have had sewage running down the disco floor.
She went on: “Another thing that caused us to have water shortages was that we used to have a non-alcohol teen disco on Friday nights where absolutely no alcohol was served. Some got a £1 or two from their parents for an orange or a coke the rest asked for water.”
Frank comes in on this: “ Another aspect of this we didn’t know at that time was that ecstasy was coming on the scene. What we thought was just some young people sweating from the heat of the disco was, in fact, people with a raging thirst from taking the drug. We were not concerned about it at the time; it was only later that we learned that one of the main symptoms was thirst. We were naive but then so was everyone else.”
So how do they feel now 18 years after the event?
Sally: “Nothing has ever been the same. We have stopped going to church locally. In the eyes of some people we will never be vindicated. Some ignore us, others think there is no way the gardai would have done what they done.
“I have come to terms with it in some ways in that I have learned if you internalise it too much it can lead to all sorts of health problems. You have to put it behind you and get on with your life.”
Frank: “I was treated very, very badly not only by the Gardai but by the legal and judicial systems.
“I have moved on in that I don’t have any ill will any more; you can’t live your life feeling hard done by. I know the gardai have a job to do and, contrary to what maybe most people might think, I think they do a good job in often very difficult circumstances. But my family has paid a big price for what was done to us.”
Frank Shortt was totally exonerated and awarded record damages in by Justice Murray in the Supreme Court in 2007. Describing the actions of members of the gardai who had stitched up Mr Shortt he said it was ‘disreputable conduct and a shocking abuse of power’, adding that the Inishowen man was ‘sacrificed in order to assist the career ambitions of a number of members of the Gardai’.
Copies of the book can be found on www.frankshortt.com