Derry Dissident Deported from U.S.

23 Nov 2005
Irish Voice
Sean O'Driscoll

A Derry dissident Republican has been deported from the U.S. after refusing an FBI and British intelligence offer to become an informer in exchange for a new house in Portugal and large cash payments.

Sean Devine, who has fundraised for dissident Republican prisoners, was recently questioned at Newark Airport for over six hours by a five man team lead by the FBI, the Northern Ireland Special Branch and the British Intelligence organization, MI5.

Devine was able to provide the Irish Voice with unusually precise information about the interview, including a phone number in Strabane, Northern Ireland he was told to ring if he agreed to become an informer.
He was also given the first names of the MI5 and Northern Ireland Special Branch officers who questioned him.

Speaking from his home in Dungiven, Co. Derry, Devine said that he was shocked by how much those questioning him knew about his life, including his plans several weeks ago to holiday on the Isle of Man, which lies between Britain and Ireland. "They obviously have a very good source somewhere along the line," he said.

He said he was refused contact with a lawyer and a representative from the Irish Embassy and was told that the conversation officially "didn't exist."

"They were all very friendly. It was really like they were my friends and they wanted to help me out if I would help them out, but I think that would only be as long as they could use me," he said.

He said that the Northern Ireland Special Branch officer gave him specific names of "people he knew very well," and he was told that any money problems he had would be taken care of. He was also offered a visa waiver to return to the U. S. if he agreed to become an informer.

Devine agrees that he split from the Provisional movement in 1997 in protest at the approaching Good Friday Agreement, which he describes as a "sell-out." His story mirrors that of another New York-based Irish Republican interviewed by the FBI in the last two months.

Congressman Peter King took up that case after the man was told that one of his family members would be deported back to Northern Ireland if he did not become an informer. The man was aligned with the mainstream Provisional Republican movement and was in favor of the Good Friday Agreement.

The latest case began at Belfast Airport, when Devine was due to fly to Newark earlier this month. He was told by U.S. immigration officials that there was something wrong with his Irish passport and it would not be accepted by U.S. officers in Newark. He took the train down to Dublin and got an emergency passport and then flew out of Belfast on the following Saturday, arriving in Newark at 11 am. When he reached the immigration inspection point, he was told to follow an immigration official.

"The man took me away to a wee room and then the FBI agent came in and named himself. He said there are people here who want to speak to you. I was taken into a larger room that looked like a dining room with a lot of chairs," Devine said.

He says that the three other people identified themselves, one saying he was "Stewarty" from MI5, the other two identified themselves as "Declan" from the Northern Ireland Special Branch and another identifying himself as "Mervyn" from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Mervyn spoke with a strong Derry accent. The officers told hum they had been waiting for him to arrive in the U.S. since Thursday and knew that he had planned to visit the Isle of Man some weeks earlier.

"They were acting like my friends and they were very, very nice," he said. "I asked for a lawyer and a member of staff of the Irish Embassy to be there. They told me that what was happening didn't exist. They were there to help me and if I worked for them they would take me anywhere in the world," he said.

Devine said the officers named three or four different countries, most specifically naming Lisbon, Portugal as a place where they could provide him with a house. "They said if I had any money problems, they would be taken care of, as much money as I needed and I'd be well looked after. They said what they wanted to do was put these people in jail," he added.

"They also said they would put me on a flight and take me anywhere I wanted for a holiday. They said a lot of the same things a lot of times." Devine said he was asked about Republicans who rejected the Good Friday Agreement, commonly referred to as "dissident Republicans."

"I wouldn't call them dissident Republicans, I would call them traditional Republicans. The Special Branch officer wanted information on people in the Derry area. They named some people that I knew well," he said.

Devine said he listened to what they had to say and took a card from Declan with a number in Strabane in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Voice has since phoned the number, which rang out for a long time and didn't include an answering machine message. After the interview, Devine was handed over to immigration officials, who put him on an 8 p.m. flight back to Belfast. "I was glad to go at that stage. I knew I wasn't going to have anything to do with it. It was time for me to get home," he said.

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