1969--Irish Republican activist Bernadette Devlin speaks at the UC Berkeley campus 

Devlin's US tour

 

During August, 1969, Irish Republican activist and Member of Parliament (for the United Kingdom) Bernadette Devlin conducted a two-week tour in the U.S. to raise support for the movement to make Northern Ireland a "free state."  She was invited to speak at the University of California at Berkeley.  

Member of Parliament 1968-1970

 

In 1968, the twenty one year old Devlin became the youngest MP ever elected, representing Mid-Ulster.  She was a witness to the massacre called "Bloody Sunday,"  That day was October 29, 1972, when British soldiers fired on a crowd of Irish civil rights demonstrators in Derry, wounding 26 and killing 14.  

As a Westminster MP, Devlin stood on the slogan "I will take my seat and fight for your rights"-–signifying her rejection of the traditional Irish republican tactic of "abstentionism."  That tactic, which required that Irish
Republican candidates pledge not to take their seats if elected, was formally rejected by the Irish Republican Army in 1969.  Devlin was re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in 1970, declaring herself an "independent socialist."  She served in Parliament until 1974.  

 

Awkward statements during the US tour

 

During her US tour, Bernadette Devlin met with members of the Black Panther Party and gave them her support. She also made an appearance on The Johnny Carson Show.  At a number of speaking events, she made parallels between the struggle in the U.S. by African Americans for civil rights and the struggles of Catholics in Northern Ireland, sometimes to the embarrassment of her audience.  In New York, Mayor John Lindsay arranged a ceremony where he planned to present her with a key to the city of New York. However, Devlin, frustrated with conservative elements of the Irish-American community, had already returned to Ireland.

Irish Republican Socialist Party

 

Devlin helped to form the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974.  This was a revolutionary socialist breakaway from the official Irish Republican group Sinn Féin.  Devlin served on the Irish Republican Socialist Party's's national executive in 1975,  In 1977, she joined the Independent Socialist Party, but it disbanded the following year.

 

Bernadette Devlin stood as an independent candidate in support of the Irish Republican prisoners who were on hunger strikes which were called the "blanket protest" and the "dirty protes," both aLong Kesh prison.  She ran in the 1979 elections to the European Parliament,  losing, with only 5.9% of the vote.  She was a leading spokesperson for the Smash H-Block Campaign, which supported the hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981.

Support for hunger-strikers

 

On 16 January 1981 she and her husband, Michael McAliskey, were shot by members of the Loyalist (Protestant) Ulster Freedom Fighters, who broke into their home.  The gunmen shot Devlin nine times in front of her children.  Devlin and her husband survived.

Devlin twice failed, in February and November 1982, in attempts to be elected to the Dublin North-Central constituency of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament.)

 

In 2003 she was deported from the United States and barred from future entry on the grounds that she posed "a serious threat to the security of the United States." 

Current activities

 

McAliskey is currently chief executive of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP) and was involved in its founding in 1997.  STEP provides a range of services and advocacy in areas that include community development, training, support and advice for migrants, policy work and community enterprise.

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Bernadette Devlin speaks in front of a standing- room-only crowd at UC Berkeley in 1969

Devlin gestures to make a point

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Lawyer Patrick ("Butch") Hallinan watches from the stage as Bernadette Devlin speaks.  He was one of several Irish American Bay Area activists in attendance.

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Surrounded by admirers.

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Part of the large crowd eager to hear the feisty young "freedom fighter" from The emerald isle