The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Torture Of John Devine

What I want to know is, who sanctioned the abduction and torture? I am calling on them to produce evidence to show I am what they say I am. I am an innocent man. I will not leave my home and my family for an allegation that contains not one iota of truth
– John Devine

Anthony McIntyre • 4 November 2004

Up until two nights ago, I had never met John Devine. I had learned of his existence days earlier as a result of media reports that he had been abducted from his West Belfast home, and was later found in a dishevelled state in Monaghan. Then the rumour mill began to crank itself up. In some minds the shadow of suspicion cast itself in the direction of Provisional republicans. DUP leader Ian Paisley, having lost none of his tunnel vision, and sensing an opportunity to chisel away at Sinn Fein's negotiating position, raised the issue with the British prime minister.

But Devine was said to hold views that would place him closer to Republican Sinn Fein than to its Provisional counterpart. He had earlier been released after a prosecution case against him in relation to a bomb scare on board a Belfast bus collapsed. While he formally denies being a member or active supporter of any armed republican group, the inflection used when stating, 'I do support the plight of republican prisoners and will continue to do so' suggests to the seasoned observer that Devine is striving to be honest in a context governed by certain legal constraints.

Had his abductors belonged to the Provisional movement, there would have been a cacophony of voices from RSF and like minded quarters, accusing the Provos of being Broy Harriers. But with nothing hurled in the direction of the usual suspects the silence seemed instructive. The Provisionals, on this occasion, would not have invited ridicule by protesting their innocence.

When the Blanket took a call from someone seeking assistance for John Devine, there was no debate about the merits of the matter. Highlighting injustices inflicted on those least capable of countering them is a time-honoured role of the Blanket. Many of those associated with the journal acquired their republican outlook in an era when republicanism appeared to speak truth to power. Fighting the corner of the abused, demonised, marginalised and powerless seemed so natural that to do otherwise would be to erode the very reason for being involved in republican political activism.

When John Devine arrived in my home, over a week after his ordeal, he walked gingerly. The reason for his discomfort was evident. The parts of his body visible to the eye bore the signs of severe abuse. His hands were grotesquely swollen and misshapen. It was difficult for him to hold a pint glass of water and drink freely from it. The glass perched precariously in his palm, beyond the power of any grip, and always looked as it were about to topple over. When his companion rearranged his clothing to expose swathes of purple flesh, I sensed instinctively I was in the company of someone who had undergone torture.

John Devine's story is as simple as it is appalling. On Saturday the 23rd of October, three to four men came to his home. After a brief introduction, he felt something prod into his back. The words, barked into his ear, 'internal security, you are under arrest' conjure up a vile image of Freddie Scappaticci sadistically stalking some hapless prey on behalf of his British handlers. This time the ‘internal security’ belonged to the Continuity IRA. What operations its ‘internal security’ is designed to protect frustrates the investigative powers of even the most assiduous researcher. The organisation has proved itself wholly incapable of mounting any challenge to the things it claims to be opposed to. There are no state forces graves marked with ‘killed by the Continuity IRA.’ Compared to the campaign once waged by the Provisionals, CIRA’s is a farce.

After being placed under ‘arrest’ John Devine was taken out of his home and transported to the Giant's Foot where his eyes were taped and his limbs bound before he was placed in a car boot and whisked off for a rendevouz with his torturers. After what seemed an hour, he was taken out of the car to be punched and beaten. He was then hauled to a building, the floor of which had been covered in advance with plastic sheeting. This was a planned torture, not something carried out on a whim. There he was beaten continuously and accused of being an informer. Those brutalising him insisted that he disclose the identity of his handlers. He denied the allegations put to him. Fearful for his own life and terrified at the prospects that his children would have to go through life in West Belfast scarred by the stigma that their father had been shot dead for being an informer, he remained steadfast in his determination not to confirm the charges being laid by his accusers.

John Devine was next told that the beating was only phase one; if he failed to comply with the demands of his tormentors he would shortly enter phase two - 'you won't like it.' He was then made to lie face down for hours on the plastic sheeting while he contemplated the certain horror of what lay ahead in phase two.

Eventually, he was hauled from his prone position and taken to another room. It too had the same plastic sheeting covering the floor. It was an anti-forensic measure. Once Devine had been adjudicated upon the plastic would be rolled up and easily disposed off. No effort expended in laboriously removing forensic traces from the torture chamber. In his new room, he was again subject to a similar line of questioning. His hands were burned with what he thinks was a soldering iron. I cast a glance at his battered fingers as he moved them painfully and nervously while he detailed his experience to me. 'It was terrible, I felt my hands were melting in a furnace.'

His captors asked him how his children would feel about their father being shot dead as an informer. 'My kids know I am not an informer' was how he responded. Although there is a touch of the infantile to a forty-year-old man swearing on the graves of dead IRA volunteers Dan McCann, Finbarr McKenna, Sean Savage and Jim McKiernan, as evidence of his fidelity to the code of omerta, it loses any pejorative significance when judged in the context of the state of his mind. A guy from a working class nationalist community being tortured by sadists will invoke all manner of things to keep them at bay, to delay another searing sensation brought on by the burning of one's own flesh. How many unfortunate Catholics failed to swear feverishly or pray fervently at the hands of the Shankill butchers? Devine's invocations were laughed at derisorily.

As the hours worn on his abductors asked Devine where he wanted his bullet - to the front of the head or the back:

They referred to the fact that I had beaten the charge for the hoax bomb on the bus. They said the cops had my fingerprints and had released me because I had agreed to work for them. Later when I was freed I went to my solicitor and asked him to confirm that there was no fingerprint evidence in my case. He did this. These people are lying. This is all down to personality clashes.

His tormentors, having no success in torturing a confession out of him, then announced that it was time for phase three. He was told that he would get the water treatment - forced under water until he decided to confess. This did not happen but what smelt like methylated spirits were rubbed into the plastic beneath his face. When someone pressed down on the back of his head forcing him to inhale the fumes:

I felt I was suffocating but there was no way I was telling them I was an informer when I was not. They told me I had two and a half hours before the nutting squad arrived. They began to beat me even more. I felt there were six or seven of them kicking me all over the body.

Exact numbers are hardly relevant - Devine’s body tells its own story. What he was subjected to was prolonged and severe. Perhaps sensing that torture alone was not producing the desired outcome his captors then offered him an amnesty which they advised him to avail of. Insisting that he had done no wrong for which he could be amnestied, he declined the offer.

He was then brought to a field and asked if he wanted to pray before being shot. He said he did. Next, he found himself being once again pushed into the boot of a car, and after a journey of about an hour he was taken out and told 'your time is up.' He lay in stunned disbelief tinged with relief as they told him he would have to leave the country within twenty-four hours and seek refuge in Scotland. Opting not to kill him, his kidnappers left him lying beside a gatepost. Despite his injuries he eventually managed to wriggle free. A passing motorist whom he tried to wave down failed to stop but did report the sighting to the gardai. They arrived on the scene and immediately sent for an ambulance.

Later, having discharged himself from a Cavan hospital, he returned to Belfast where he told the Irish News of his ordeal. His vivid account, coupled with the paper’s photographs of his injuries, obviously annoyed his torturers. Their response was to fire shots into his West Belfast home. A caller, rang the Irish News claiming the attack on behalf of the Continuity IRA. Mustering all the haughtiness of the brownshirts, the caller asserted, ‘that will teach him and anyone for shooting their mouth off.’ In other words the sadists who are allowed to be members of this militarily ineffective army can torture at leisure and nobody shall utter a word in protest for fear of their violence.

Further angered that John Devine has provided an account of events surrounding his abduction that challenges its own version, the Continuity IRA today told the Irish News that it regretted not having killed its captive. It warned that, ‘should Mr Devine continue to defy our order, then he will be dealt with accordingly.’ In a clear threat to anyone ‘harbouring’ John Devine, the organisation also stated that they too would be ‘dealt with.’

The people who tortured John Devine should be cast out from any republican body. Their claim to stand in the tradition of past eminent republicans is mocked by their use of torture. They have company alright - the war criminals of Abu Ghraib. Whether they like it or not, the tortured of the world will be harboured from the torturers. The Blanket will speak out against the torture of John Devine. It will not be silenced by ‘internal security.’ Republicanism must always side with those being burned at the stake and never with the witch hunters who burn them.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Torture of John Devine
Anthony McIntyre

Defending the Faith
Dr John Coulter

Simulating the Simulators
Eoghan O’Suillabhain

Learning from Hurley
Gréagoir O’Gaothin

Politics and Reason
Mark Burke

If Looks Could Kill
Sean Smyth

Fraternal Parting
Davy Carlin

Bluebeard's Castle
Toni Solo

31 October 2004

Blanket Interview: Hugh Orde
Carrie Twomey & Anthony McIntyre

The Convict and the Cop
Suzanne Breen

Thanks and Goodbye
Diarmuid Fogarty

In Response to: John Kerry, the Wrong Choice
Saerbhreathach Mac Toirdealbhaigh

The True Face of a One-Eyed Jack
Richard Wallace

Hurley's Twisted View
Lonnie Painter

Three More Votes for Kerry-Edwards
Kristi Kline

Your Silence Will Not Protect You
Joanne Dunlop

The Orange Order: Personification of anti-Catholic Bigotry
Father Sean Mc Manus

Double Standards and Curious Silences
Paul de Rooij



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