The Whistle - Blower Project
Miscarriages of Justice affect the accused, their families and the wider community.

With the assistance of An Chomhairle Ealaíona/The Arts Council, I collaborated with fellow musicians and artists to explore musically the impact a miscarriage of justice involving a family member had on me.

This short film, directed by Film-Maker, Trish McAdam and produced by me, is in response to a series of workshops held in Dublin in the summer of 2015.  I collaborated with musicians Trevor Knight and Brian Fleming, singer/songwriter Susan McKeown, artist Robert Ballagh, theatre director, Raymond Keane and film-maker Trish McAdam.  Out of this process a five minute short film based-on my brother’s wrongful arrest in 1976 was created.  Over the next few months, I decided to develop this film with Trish.  We completed a 12 minute short film in May, 2016. This was further developed to include Professor Dermot Walsh's contribution.  This Film uses recorded clips of my narrative, drawings, animations, lyrics, music and primary research materials relating to the story.

Between January and November 2017, my short-film was screened in the Mermaid, Bray, Co. Wicklow, the Galway Film Fleadh, The Wexford Film Festival and the Cork Film Festival.

My brother Osgur was tortured in Garda custody and compelled to falsely incriminate himself.  He was subsequently imprisoned in 1978 and given a 12-year prison sentence. At the time he was 25 years old and I was 13.

When I first learned the news of a train robbery at Hazelhatch, near Sallins, Co. Kildare, I was capitulated into the adult world and the public domain as I participated in my family's campaign to gain public support for Osgur’s release and the release of his co-accused, Brian McNally and Nicky Kelly. The Case became a cause célèbre known as The Sallins Mail Train Robbery [Frame-Up] and later, as the Nicky Kelly Case.

Widely acknowledged as a serious miscarriage of justice, it engulfed the Breatnach family for over 17 years and cast a long shadow into my own adulthood.

The film begins with the statement "We all have a story to tell." My suffering is not unique.  Being in the public eye however can inspire action but there is personal and emotional cost involved.

My parents campaigned for the release of Osgur and his co-accused through the newly-formed Irish Council for Civil Liberties. They also co-founded the Dún Laoghaire Branch of Amnesty International and were not alone in their criticism of the continued use of the non-jury Special Criminal Court.  Well-known public figures, such as former President Mary Robinson and current President Michael D Higgins, as well as journalists and the printed media (e.g.,The Irish Times, The Irish Press and Hibernia) all came under fire for their own public criticism of the same court. The continued existence of the non-jury Special Criminal Court and its expansion has also been criticized by the  ICCL[1] and internationally, by Amnesty International[2] and the UN Human Rights Commission[3].

I hope that my artistic response to this true-life story will resonate with others and contextualize trauma imposed by injustice on a personal, communal, national and international level.  To achieve this I need to reach as wide an audience as possible.  Therefore, further projects are planned. I have recently collaborated with and recorded my 'Whistle Blower Album' with musicians Daire Bracken and Martin Tourish consisting of 6 new compositions influenced by train and clock sounds and family members. It will be available for download via 'Bandcamp'.

We will be touring in Arts Venues in Ireland in early 2019

Film-maker and Radio Programmer Director, Frank Delaney, is completing a programme about the making of the Album and the story behind the Miscarriage of Justice for RTE 1 Radio (The DocOnOne Series).

TG4 will broadcast (Magamedia) a special TV programme about my brother Osgur in the last of its current series, 'Finné', on Wednesday, the 24th October 2018 at 21:30 pm.

Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Bearing witness is our responsibility. This is my story.....part of my story.

Cormac Juan Breatnach


1 e.g., July 1991 ICCL Submission to Irish Government; against expansion in October 2015

2 e.g., June 1977 Research Mission to Dublin + Worldwide Reports including November 1990

3 October 2015

Photo of Cormac at Newcastle Railway, Co. Wicklow
taken by Gary O'Neill for The Irish Times
Trish McAdam