A convicted Limerick criminal who has survived up to 12 assassination attempts has led tributes to solicitor John Devane at his funeral Mass.
At the altar of St Patrick's Church in Parteen, Co Clare, Anthony Kelly, of O'Malley Park, Southill, praised his solicitor, who represented him for 23 years, for the "heights he would go to to prove his clients' innocence".
“John was like my brother. He was a very, very good friend of mine, and meant an awful lot to me. Today is not John’s funeral – it’s a celebration of his life, I believe,” said Kelly (56).
Senior gardaí and members of the judiciary, including solicitors and barristers from Limerick Circuit and District Court, attended the funeral of Mr Devane, who was regarded as one of the most colourful, controversial and divisive lawyers in Limerick city.
As a mark of respect, no cases were heard in Limerick Circuit Court on Thursday, and cases at Limerick District Court were postponed until after the Mass.
Mr Devane (54), represented some of Limerick's most high-profile criminals during his career, including John Dundon, who was convicted of the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in 2008, and Vincent Collopy, who was jailed last year for threatening to kill a State witness.
A number of Mr Devane’s other clients were among the mourners.
Stint in Army
“Against all the odds he became a solicitor,” said Kelly, noting Mr Devane’s trajectory from a barman to a brief stint in the Army before going on to become one of the highest-paid Legal Aid solicitors in Limerick.
“People said he was the poor man’s solicitor of Limerick, but any client who came to John, he gave them his 100 per cent representation.
“Every case John had, whether people were rich or poor, no matter what they had, or if they couldn’t afford legal fees, he represented them. His true vocation was as a solicitor and fighting people’s causes. Some people hadn’t a penny in their pockets when they were leaving court, and he always made sure that they were all right [financially].
“On many, many occasions I saw people in court for the first time, who wouldn’t be used to the system, and mothers crying, and John was always there for people as a shoulder to cry on. He didn’t want thanks for it or anything,” he said. “John will be deeply missed. He will be missed by everyone.”
Kelly received rousing applause after hailing Mr Devane as a “brilliant man” and someone whom he was “proud to say was my friend, like a brother to me and will never be forgotten in my house”.
Mr Devane’s daughter Jessica described her father as a “kind, loving teddy bear”, who adored his family. “I take after my dad in so many ways – our cheekiness, sense of humour and good looks.”
She said she and her sister Jemma were often interrogated with every question possible about their boyfriends by their father, who “always reminded us that he was a lawyer and knew the law”.
“He isn’t really gone. He’s in our hearts,” she said.
Schoolchildren from Parteen National School formed a guard of honour as his coffin was shouldered from the church, with Kelly among the pall-bearers.
Mr Devane is buried in St Brendan’s Cemetery, Milltown, Dingle, Co Kerry.