'Champion of the underdog' solicitor dies in his home aged 54

'Champion of the underdog' solicitor dies in his home aged 54

Gardai said, Sunday, they do not suspect foul play in the death of prominent criminal defence solicitor John Devane, Sunday, writes David Raleigh.

Mr Devane, (54), was found dead around midday by his estranged wife Julianne Stanley, at his home in Blackwater, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, gardai said.

His body was taken to University Hospital Limerick for a postmortem.

"We do not suspect there is anything suspicious," said a garda source.

Mr Devane had represented all sides in the murderous Limerick feud, which left up to 20 men dead between the late 90s and mid 2000s.

The father of two represented the notorious Dundon McCarthy criminal gang who shot dead innocent businessman Roy Collins and innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan.

The Limerick solicitor also represented members of the Keane gang; the Collopy criminal family; and the Ryan McCarthy crime gang.

Mr Devane had suffered a number of health problems in recent years, after he contracted hospital superbug, MRSA.

In 2015, he underwent surgery during which he claimed he sustained a broken neck, which left him using a wheelchair for about a year.

Mr Devane was also recently diagnosed with Osteopenia, a disease of the bones, which led to an infection in one of his legs.

In the summer of 2016 he returned to work at Limerick District Court using a wheelchair at first, and then with the aid of crutches.

Paying tribute, friends and relatives said Mr Devane will be remembered as one of the country's most controversial yet popular legal eagles.

In 2012, Devane was found guilty of assaulting rival solicitor John Herbert during an incident at Limerick District Court on June 9, 2011.

Devane denied grabbing Mr Herbert by the neck and attempting to head butt him.

However Devane, with a practice at Quinlan Street, Limerick, escaped a criminal conviction after paying a €1,000 donation to charity.

In 2008, despite receiving death threats from gangland criminals, Mr Devane offered to mediate between rival criminal factions in an effort to bring peace to the streets of the Treaty City.

In the same year, Mr Devane published a memoir 'Nobody Heard Me Cry', in which he claimed he was a victim of a Limerick paedophile ring, involving members of the gardai; the judiciary; and the clergy.

Despite being expelled from school, Devane who was previously a well-known DJ in Limerick, later attended UCC as a mature student and graduated in Law, and went on to become one of the country's most recognisable solicitors.

The Limerick solicitor represented 450 soldiers in regard to the army deafness legal claims.

He later took a class action suit against the State on behalf of 800 prisoners who had to slop out their own jail cells.

Mr Devane ran as an unsuccessful independent candidate in the 2007 general election in the Limerick East constituency.

At the time he said he had contested the election to "get in and stir the shit".

In 2003, Devane famously served subpoenas on then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Defence, Michael Smith, to appear as witnesses at Shannon District Court in the trial of two anti-war protestors charged with criminal damage and trespass at Shannon Airport.

Despite his many brushes with controversy, Mr Devane was regarded as a champion of the underdog, and a legal representative of the poor and underclasses.

Brian O'Connor, a cousin of Mr Devane's, said: "John was an immense character, and a fiercely determined advocate of the underdog with whom he identified."

"He was a very loving and giving family man. We were all very proud of him," he added.

Colleague and fellow criminal defence solicitor Sarah Ryan, also paid tribute: "John was part of Limerick District Court for the best part of twenty years. He was in court last Thursday in his usual form. We express our condolences to his family."

Commenting on Mr Devane's colourful career, she added: "John was John, and there was never a dull moment when he was around. I'm sure he won't be annoyed if we smile when we think about him."

Further tributes are expected to be paid by colleagues and members of the judiciary at Limerick District Court tomorrow.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

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