Michael Devine: A wild man even the IRA couldn't control

Michael Devine, who died today as the 10th hunger striker to starve himself to death in Northern Ireland's Maze prison, was a founder of a group of 'wild men' not even the Irish Republican Army can control.

Devine, 27, helped to found the Irish National Liberation Army, a radical and leftist organization that operates independently from the IRA.


He took over from dead hunger striker Patsy O'Hara as leader of INLA 'blanket protest' prisoners in the Maze -- men who refuse to wear prison uniforms or their own clothes to back a demand that uniforms be abolished.

Devine, from the Creggan estate in Londonderry, was a founder-member in 1974 of the INLA after quitting the Marxist Official IRA.

He and other INLA members were arrested in Londonderry as they returned from an arms raid in Lifford, County Donegal, in the Irish Republic. They had several rifles, shotguns and 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

Devine was separated from his wife, Margaret, at the time of his arrest in September 1976, and had two children, Michael, 7, and Louise, 5.

He was convicted in June 1977 and sentenced to 12 years for firearms possession. With time off for good behavior, he would have been due for release in September 1982. He began his fast June 22.


Devine, unemployed since 1972, was a former shop assistant. Both his parents are dead but his family had no Republican or political tradition. However, Devine once wrote that like many of his generation in Londonderry he was radicalized by police brutality against civil rights marchers there in 1968. He was 14 at the time.

'Like every young person in 'Derry my whole way of thinking was tossed upside down by the events of October 5, 1968,' he said. 'I didn't even know there was a civil rights march. I saw it on television.

'But that night I was down the town smashing shop windows and stoning the RUC (police).

'Overnight I developed an intense hatred of the RUC. As a child I had always known not to talk them, or to have anything to do with them, but this was different. Within a month everyone was a political activist.

'I never had a political thought in my life but now we talk of nothing else,' he said. 'I was by no means politically aware but the speed of events gave me a quick education.'

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