Saturday 24 March 2018

Obituary: John Devane, the survivor

Aine Cuddihy, the sister of the controversial solicitor, pays tribute to a kind, generous but sometimes naive man

LOVING: Solicitor John Devane
LOVING: Solicitor John Devane

Aine Cuddihy

The obituary for my brother John Devane (Sunday Independent, May 21) states that John 'claimed to have had a seedy upbringing', but the opposite is in fact true.

Our mother was widowed at 35 and was left with seven children aged from six weeks (John) to 13 years old. Ten months later, our brother Tony, then aged 14, was killed in a road traffic accident.

My mother was invited to place all six of us in care. She was, however, a woman before her time and would not offer us up to any institution wherein we could be abused. We will be forever grateful for her foresight. She set to rearing us as best she could. She had little means but always ensured we were well fed. She was a proud woman and took great pride in the fact that we were all academically bright.

Her mission for us all became that we would receive a good education. My sisters and I attended Laurel Hill Colaiste and FCJ Bruff in Limerick. My brothers, Michael and John, went to St Munchin's College. By the time John had grown up, three of his sisters were qualified nurses and I was a teacher. My mother worked hard as Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Limerick to ensure we achieved our goals. We came from a long list of educated people. My dad was a nephew of Thomas Ashe, the patriot, which was a great source of pride within our family.

John was the most beautiful, placid baby I ever knew. I don't say this lightly as I had three wonderful children myself. As a young child, he was affable, funny, kind and happy. We all loved him and showered him with affection. He became a little wild as a teenager - something which caused my mother great concern. All he demonstrated though was normal teenage behaviour.

He disliked school and after his Inter Cert announced he didn't wish to return. My mother gave him an option - either you stay in school or you join the Army. I will never forget her shock next day when he came in and said he had enlisted! We all supported him as we felt that he would be safe and the discipline would be good for him.

He stayed there for three years and then came to live with me in Dublin where he worked as a security guard. But he missed Limerick and returned to work as a barman. He had a love of music and with my mother produced and presented some late-night music shows on Big L - a pirate radio station.

After a number of years, he realised the value of an education (it was in his blood) and he sat his Leaving Certificate and subsequently went to Cork to study law. I guess the rest is history now.

He did not become a 'criminal lawyer' but rather a 'criminal defence solicitor'. Criminal defence solicitors do not choose their clients. They are either requested for representation or they are court-appointed by our judges. John did not tout for clients - they chose him or were appointed to him.

He was a kind, generous, loving, sometimes naive man.

John suffered a leg injury in 2015 and had surgery on this. Post-op, however, he awoke with massive paralysis.

He later spent many months in Croom Hospital and latterly in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire where he was diagnosed as quadriplegic. He spent some time in a wheelchair and worked hard to become somewhat ambulant again. He used his hands with the aid of splints. He was a survivor and nothing was going to stop him returning to work.

The family, including his two daughters, Jemma and Jessica, all took great solace from the outpouring of love and grief expressed at his death.

I will forever hold in my heart the man who came up to us and said: "I had to come to let you know that John gave me my son back, my son was in a bad place and John quietly helped him and brought him back to recovery."

Further, we were honoured that the Circuit Court in Limerick was closed, in his honour, on the Thursday. The District Court did not open until after his funeral. His colleagues showed him the respect he earned.

Sunday Independent

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