Bernadette Devlin Convicted for Role in Northern Ireland Riot

Bernadette Devlin Convicted for Role in Northern Ireland Riot

In August 1969, Bernadette Devlin was arrested during the Battle of the Bogside, a riot that protested the British occupation of Northern Ireland. Convicted in 1970, she spent four months in prison while still an MP. In an interview following her conviction, Devlin strongly defends her position.

Bernadette Devlin, Irish socialist and republican political activist, is elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Mid Ulster constituency on April 17, 1969, standing as the Independent Unity candidate.

Devlin is born in Cookstown, County Tyrone to a Roman Catholic family and attends St. Patrick’s Girls Academy in Dungannon. She is studying Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast in 1968 when she takes a prominent role in a student-led civil rights organisation, People’s Democracy. Devlin is subsequently excluded from the university.

She stands unsuccessfully against James Chichester-Clark in the Northern Ireland general election of 1969. When George Forrest, the MP for Mid Ulster, dies, she fights the subsequent by-election on the “Unity” ticket, defeating Forrest’s widow Anna, the Ulster Unionist Party candidate, and is elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. At age 21, she is the youngest MP at the time, and remains the youngest woman ever elected to Westminster until the May 2015 general election when 20-year-old Mhairi Black succeeds to the title.

After engaging, on the side of the residents, in the Battle of the Bogside, she is convicted of incitement to riot in December 1969, for which she serves a short jail term.

Having witnessed the events of Bloody Sunday, Devlin is infuriated that she is consistently denied the floor in the House of Commons by the Speaker Selwyn Lloyd, despite the fact that parliamentary convention decrees that any MP witnessing an incident under discussion would be granted an opportunity to speak about it. Devlin slaps Reginald Maudling, the Home Secretary in the Conservative government, across the face when he states in the House of Commons that the paratroopers had fired in self-defence on Bloody Sunday.

Devlin helps to form the Irish Republican Socialist Party, a revolutionary socialist breakaway from Official Sinn Féin, with Seamus Costello in 1974. She serves on the party’s national executive in 1975, but resigns when a proposal that the Irish National Liberation Army become subordinate to the party executive is defeated. In 1977, she joins the Independent Socialist Party, but it disbands the following year.

Devlin stands as an independent candidate in support of the prisoners at Long Kesh prison in the 1979 European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland and wins 5.9% of the vote. She is a leading spokesperson for the Smash H-Block Campaign, which supports the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981.

On January 16, 1981, Devlin and her husband, Michael McAliskey, are shot by members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), who break into their home near Coalisland, County Tyrone. Devlin is shot fourteen times in front of her children. British soldiers are watching the McAliskey home at the time, but fail to prevent the assassination attempt. The couple are taken by helicopter to a hospital in nearby Dungannon for emergency treatment and then transported to the Musgrave Park Hospital, Military Wing, in Belfast, under intensive care. The attackers, all three members of the South Belfast UDA, are captured by the army patrol and subsequently jailed.

In 1982, she twice fails in an attempt to be elected to the Dublin North–Central constituency of Dáil Éireann. In 2003, she is barred from entering the United States and is deported on the grounds that the United States Department of State has declared that she “poses a serious threat to the security of the United States,” apparently referring to her conviction for incitement to riot in 1969.

On May 12, 2007, she is the guest speaker at éirígí‘s first Annual James Connolly commemoration in Arbour Hill, Dublin. She currently co-ordinates a not-for-profit community development organisation based in Dungannon, the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme, and works with migrant workers to improve their treatment in Northern Ireland.

Took Part in Protests

This was a period when many in the younger Catholic community in Northern Ireland were turning away from both constitutional nationalism as represented by the socially respectable and bourgeois Nationalist party and the revolutionary Sinn Fein movement. In place of the immediately unlikely goal of Irish unity, they began to insist on civil rights for the minority (that is, the Catholic) community within Northern Ireland as appropriate for citizens of the United Kingdom.

Their specific grievances included the restricted franchise in local government elections (which de facto disenfranchised a higher percentage of Catholics), gerry-mandered local government districts, and the consequent discriminatory treatment in public hiring and availability of benefits, especially public housing. They sought to emulate the tactics of African Americans by conducting a series of protest marches throughout Northern Ireland. Devlin took part in several of these marches, which met a combination of police obstruction and militant Protestant threats.

Devlin was one of the founders of People's Democracy, a student movement concerned with the civil rights cause and of decidedly socialist temperament. She was with that group in the celebrated march in January 1969 from Belfast to Derry which was assaulted by police auxiliaries and other Unionist militants at Burntollet Bridge along the route. People's Democracy entered the Northern Irish parliamentary election of March 1969, and Devlin unsuccessfully contested the South Derry constituency. A month later, however, she emerged as the Unity candidate for the nationalist community in a by-election for the Mid-Ulster seat to the Westminster Parliament. She was elected, becoming the youngest woman ever to serve in Parliament and the youngest member of parliament in over 200 years.

Progressive Unionist Party

Soon after his release from prison Hutchinson became active in the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and began working towards the establishment of the Northern Ireland peace process . During the early 1990s Hutchinson and David Ervine became more familiar faces in the media, presenting loyalist political demands. Both men were influenced by the example of Sinn Féin , who had demonstrated that an articulate media presence could ensure that paramilitary groups’ demands might be heard. [13] Hutchinson and Ervine in particular became close personal friends as well as colleagues and also enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Hutchinson being a Linfield-supporting west Belfast man and Ervine from the east of the city and a Glentoran F.C. fan. [14] Along with Spence and Ervine, Hutchinson was a strong advocate of moves towards peace and he played a leading role in helping to convince UVF commanders to endorse the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in 1994. [15] Following the announcement of the ceasefire Hutchinson was part of a six-man delegation representing the PUP and the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) that toured the United States. [16]

Hutchinson became known as a strong supporter of the peace process, not least during an incident in Northwest Belfast in the summer of 1996. Protestants in the loyalist enclave of Torrens – a small area between the mainly nationalist Oldpark and Cliftonville roads – had been involved in a stand-off with Catholics in neighbouring Ardoyne and this had escalated when a number of Provisional IRA members entered Ardoyne to protect residents. [ according to whom?] Members of the UVF then entered Torrens, having retrieved weapons (including an AK-47 ) from an arms dump, and a clash between the two groups looked imminent. When Hutchinson learned of this he entered Torrens and convinced the UVF members to put down their weapons, even standing in front of the AK-47 wielder to prevent him approaching Ardoyne. The weapon was removed and the UVF left the area with the incident defusing as a result. [17] He also spoke at an event in the nationalist Bogside area of Derry , during which he expressed support for the possibility of non-executive cross-border bodies before posing for pictures with local Sinn Féin activist Robin Perceval. [18]


Hutchinson was a candidate for the PUP in North Belfast in the 1996 election to the Northern Ireland Forum . [19] He was not elected although the PUP managed to win two seats in the interim body. He returned as North Belfast candidate for the 1998 election to the new Northern Ireland Assembly and was elected to this body. Hutchinson lost his seat in the 2003 election after the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin took an extra seat each. [20]

Hutchinson ran for the PUP in the 1997 local government election and was elected to Belfast City Council as a representative of the Oldpark District Electoral Area , topping the poll among unionist candidates in this area. [21] He retained the seat in 2001 but lost it in 2005 to Fred Cobain of the Ulster Unionist Party . [22]

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey: What does she think of Stormont nearly 50 years on?

For the role she played in the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 she was sentenced to a short jail term in December that year on a charge of incitement to riot.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday she received a six month suspended sentence after crossing the floor of the House of Commons to slap British Home Secretary Reginald Mauldling in the face when he claimed the Parachute Regiment fired in self-defence.

In 1980-81 she again played a pivotal role during the republican hunger strikes of that era.

She currently co-ordinates a not-for-profit community development organisation based in Dungannon, the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEPS) and works with migrant workers to improve their treatment in Northern Ireland.

Her most recent political activity was the successful co-ordination of the campaign to have her life-long friend Eamonn McCann elected to Stormont for the People Before Profit Alliance.

The ‘Journal’ spoke to Bernadette at length whilst she was in Derry and in the first of a two part feature she outlines in her normal forthright manner, what she thinks of the political system here today, almost 50 years after she was one of the leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“I think the thing that I keep pointing out, and I see it everywhere, especially in my day’s work - I am of a generation who saw what we would have called the injustice of Northern Ireland in the 1960s and we intended to change it and we can see that in ways it has changed but it hasn’t changed for the better.

“It is a bit like the hunger strike, because in my mind, the price that we paid for the hunger strike was so enormous it went into the psyche of people. And, what we got out of that pain, sacrifice and loss was nothing more than the restoration of the equilibrium which existed had it not taken place.

“So, the things that were restored to prisoners were the privileges that were taken from them because they had dared ask for humanitarian conditions. But, the political demands for the prisoner’s rights were never met. And, in the same way that people talk about the peace, and there’s no way any of us want to go back to war, but we started off in the civil rights movement and we didn’t start off either demanding a war or an end to a war because there wasn’t one.

“There are all kinds of reasons why that became a violent situation. And, I still hold the state responsible for that,”she said.

Asked about her take on the Peace Process and evaluating its progress since 1998, Bernadette told the ‘Journal’: “The only thing we really got out of the peace process in real sustainable terms was the absence of a context of political violence being the starting point of everybody’s life. That was in many ways the same, just as a return to the equilibrium. And then people bring up the idea of power sharing - but what power and what sharing? This is because the people who have not had the share of anything have been the most disadvantaged. They have nothing.

“It’s a bit like my present life where I recruit and interview and manage employees for an employer. I have learnt that you need to create a job for the job that needs to be done. But, if you create the job with a particular person in mind then you do the job a disservice. So at a practical level it will all fall apart if that person decides, for whatever reason, that they aren’t in that particular job.

“At a very practical level the peace process and power sharing was in fact designed for those in the middle ground. Now, in order to make it work Sinn Fein and the DUP have moved into the middle ground. That is the only reason it works.

“If Sinn Fein and the DUP had the same politics they had when John Hume and others were negotiating the peace, this thing wouldn’t work at all. So in order to make it work they have taken that middle ground.

“In a sense stolen they’ve clothes of the other two parties, except that the reality is a bit like when you take the dissension that is created when both the DUP and Sinn Fein are arguing over violence and who is to blame?

“The difference between them is that Sinn Fein politics only emerged gradually, they, at a time, didn’t have a political coherence, so they haven’t stolen the clothes they eventually just put them on.

“I used to talk about this a long time ago and it’s a culture of arrogance.

“When we were children we were told God made the world. How do we know God made the world? Because God told us he made the world. And His word is true.

“Now, when you get away from the Catechism and you learn a bit of intellectual inquiry you say that’s an interesting concept.

“Even though you may move away from it, somewhere internally is that concept, that people will tell you the truth, they wouldn’t tell you a lie. If they say they are God then they must be God. Sinn Fein works on that model.

“That if you have the Irish proclamation and the people at the GPO claimed the allegiance of every man and woman on the island, Sinn Fein do an apostolic decent argument that means that everyone in Ireland owes their loyalty to Sinn Fein.

“If you tried to argue that before a mental health tribunal you wouldn’t get away with it.

“But, of course it works because it’s a mantra that is repeated. The problem for Sinn Fein to my mind, and they are not the only ones guilty of this, is that you in order to maintain that culture and loyalty you have to stifle any degree of opposition or critical voice or dissent.

“Therefore, the problem for your own thinking is that you can now hear nothing but the reflection of your own voice.

“Sooner or later your own downfall is built into that and the thing that Sinn Fein forgets is how readily that is sooner and not later. This is because they only look at this history that suits them.

“ All the ‘Sinn Feins’ have been here before and lost and at some point you have to say that this model that Sinn Fein and the republican movement works on has an inherent flaw in it somewhere. We would have won the Rising only for… and we would have won the War of Independence only for… and we would have built the 32 county republic only for… because there was nothing wrong with what we were doing. Each time there’s an ‘only for the Brits’, ‘only for Michael Collins’, ‘only for de Valera’, ‘only for, only for’…

“And, if you look at the dissidents now they are on the next stage of that sad song, ‘only for Gerry Adams, only for Martin McGuinness…’

“That circle goes around and around and around. At some point they have to say, wait a minute, if we have been trying this particular way of working for over a hundred years and every single time that we think we have managed to do something, and I remember Tom Hartley saying it was ‘our ability to snatch political defeat from the jaws of victory,’ then you have to say there’s something wrong in the methodology.

“ It cannot be that we are creating generation after generation of people who sold us out. And, until they get around that, they will keep going around in that circle.

“The reality is that they have no ideological politics. You could at least say that the DUP have some social-economic moral, they know what they are and that they belong there on the populist right.

“When push comes to shove, parts of Sinn Fein are on the populist left and parts of Sinn Fein are on the populist right, so they only way to maintain the coherence of a party is that they don’t care what they are as long as they are in power, and that corrupts over time.

The ‘Journal’ also asked Bernadette Devlin if she is shocked that many of the issues fought against in the late 1960s are still prevalent today in Derry.

She said: ““The ‘market’ has become a great word because no one actually knows what it is.

“Think of the ‘market’ as the place where things are bought and sold. What Tories believe is that nothing matters except buying and selling and everything is commodified-labour, people who work are a commodity, people who don’t work are a burden-that is their philosophy.”

Next week. What can Stormont do to properly address the imbalances within Northern society? And why Bernadette Devlin would not countenance going there herself.

The Phenomenon of Bernadette Devlin

50 years ago Irish republican socialist Bernadette Devlin was elected to Westminster. We take a look at her best-selling memoir, 'The Price of My Soul,' published the same year.

British understanding of Northern Ireland generally comes in the form of a set of isolated tropes, often to do with terrorism and bloody atavistic conflict. Brexit has arguably increased awareness of the region somewhat, bringing discussions of the Irish border and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to the fore, and the 2017 election result introduced the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to a British public hitherto largely ignorant of their existence. But there remains a striking lack of historical or political context when these matters are discussed, little to no awareness shown of Britain’s colonial history in Ireland, its relationship to the forces of unionism and loyalism, and to which various shades of Irish nationalism and republicanism formed as a response.

The border, now frequently referred to in news items about Brexit negotiations, trade agreements and the backstop, is nearly one hundred years old. It was the result of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, itself the result of a two year guerilla war of independence against British forces by Irish republicans. This border, encircling six of the nine counties of Ulster, created the gerrymandered statelet of Northern Ireland (the remaining three counties, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, were excluded due to their Catholic majority). The discrimination embedded within it gave rise to the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s. All this is where the conflict now euphemistically known as “the Troubles” has its roots. The border has never been uncontested.

Bernadette Devlin is one of the few figures from Northern Ireland to have achieved notoriety in Britain. She is an anti-establishment icon and images of her are frequently shared on social media as emblems of this status: sat on a stage, fist raised in solidarity, a sneering look of defiance on her face, perched on a fence in mini-skirt and boots, clutching an election poster during the campaign that sent her to Westminster as an MP in August 1969. In archive interview footage she is fiercely articulate and often furious. In 1972 she famously slapped the home secretary Reginald Maudlin in the House of Commons when he stated that the paratroopers had acted in self-defence on Bloody Sunday interviewed afterwards, she refused to apologise, saying instead “I’m just sorry I didn’t get him by the throat”.

There is something of this crisp, uncompromising tone throughout Devlin’s memoir The Price of My Soul, which is also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. If you can get hold of a copy (it’s sadly out of print) it’s an insightful and entertaining primer on Ireland’s pre-1969 history and the civil rights movement, as well as an engaging account of her background. Anniversaries offer an opportunity to reappraise the historical moments they commemorate, and this book, written soon after her election to parliament, describes a very specific period in Irish history that can sometimes be forgotten. Devlin’s detailed accounts of notorious Civil Rights marches underscore the role of loyalist violence in the Troubles’ beginnings and describe the repeated brutal attacks that these peaceful demonstrations were subject to, with “Paisleyites” attacking protestors at various points on their routes and the RUC at best standing by and at worst taking part. (This violent anti-Catholic street movement of course gave birth to the DUP) The book was written at the very beginning of the Troubles, after British troops had been deployed to the six counties but before the worst atrocities of the conflict had occurred. As such it could be said to have a certain innocence, but there is something fresh and immediate in her writing, with a kind of dynamism and a sense of things still being to play for which is, in terms of political activism, instructive.

Devlin was aware of her own currency as an icon from very early on. Her stated aim in the foreword to the book is to explain “how the complex economic, social, and political problems of Northern Ireland threw up the phenomenon of Bernadette Devlin.” She shows an awareness throughout her memoir of the public persona that’s been constructed for her, as she describes her dealings with Westminster and the media, and we get something of an insight into how she is marketed, through the front and back covers of the 1972 paperback edition of the book, which bear the traces of sensationalism and a kind of patronising sexism. “The fighting Irish girl MP tells her personal story” it says on the front, with the blurb on the back promising both the stories “of ‘the real flesh-and-blood Bernadette” and of “the rage behind the Ulster riots.”

The first half of the book is an account of her upbringing in Cookstown, County Tyrone, one of six children. The family home was the site of critical political awakenings, and the the dynamics of class and inequality in the town made themselves plain in her early life. Devlin describes the political education she got through her parents and her schooling, and in these parts of the book there are references to her father’s possible involvement in the IRA’s border campaign of the 1950s and the republican songs and speeches she was raised singing and reciting. Tyrone is a predominantly Catholic county, but Cookstown a more mixed area and she describes sectarian tension in the town a protestant neighbour, for example, shouts “Fenian scum!” at her on the street during her election campaign. But she pointedly resists sectarian understandings of her community, and emphasises throughout the kindnesses and solidarity she received from Protestant neighbours. The home is crucial in these early chapters it is a place of work, of negotiation, of discussion, and often chaos, all of which played its part in creating “the phenomenon of Bernadette Devlin”.

Devlin’s perspective has always complicated a political situation most often read in terms of binaries – Catholic/Protestant, nationalist/unionist, republican/loyalist. Throughout her political life she has expressed support for republican causes such as the 1981 hunger strikes, but she has never been straightforwardly aligned with the Irish republican movement, prioritising socialist analyses of the situation in Ireland and remaining critical of the IRA and Sinn Fein. In her memoir, she makes it clear that her interest is in class and that, for her, Irish reunification alone is not the solution: “There are no free counties, anywhere in Ireland. The Irish had replaced the British in twenty-six of the counties, but they had done nothing to change the system.” She is critical of the mainstream civil rights movement of the time for prioritising “the Catholic-rights line” which, as she saw it, led to a situation in which “you had Catholic slum landlords marching virtuously beside the tenants they exploited.” These revolutionary ideals were reflected in People’s Democracy, the student organisation she helped to found at Queen’s University Belfast in 1968, along with other activists such as Michael Farrell and Eammon McCann. While PD shared the broad aims of the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association it was working for the establishment of an all-Ireland socialist republic and had a far more redistributive agenda than NICRA.

There are no singular heroes in her version of Irish history and her writing is often deliciously iconoclastic (this is typical of her style as an orator, and anyone who’s ever heard her speak will know that she’s almost as funny as she is inspirational). She gives us a few pages of breezy explanation of the 800 years of struggle that led to the situation as it was in Ireland in 1969 and interprets the conflict between Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins partly as a petty squabble between two male egos. She makes constant self-deprecating digs at herself, recounting the moment of her election by stating unceremoniously that “by a majority of 4,211 muggins got elected and dumped into Parliament.” The contemporary relevance of The Price of My Soul lies partly in the detail with which Devlin describes the political movement of which she was a part. She writes of notorious historical events with a kind of specificity that leaves little space for grand heroic narratives. She is interested in the minutiae of political organisation, not only meetings, votes and negotiations with government ministers, but also the domestic and emotional labour that went on behind the scenes: how activists were clothed and fed and who performed this care. This, for her, is politics.

Bernadette Devlin Convicted for Role in Northern Ireland Riot - HISTORY

She served as the Independent Unity member for Mid Ulster from 1969-73.

As an MP, she continued to champion the cause of catholics in Northern Ireland. She was imprisoned for her part in the sectarian riots in Londonderry in August 1969, which led to the deaths of five people and the deployment of troops in the province.

After her marriage in 1974 she faded from public view until her involvement in the H-block campaign.

In October 1993, she gave evidence to a court in San Francisco on behalf of James Smyth, who escaped from the Maze in 1983. He was fighting the British government's attempts to extradite him.

More recently, Mrs McAliskey fought the extradition of her daughter, Roisin, to Germany, where she is wanted for questioning about the IRA bombing of the Osnabruck base in 1996.

Roisin's extradition to Germany was blocked in March 1998 by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on medical grounds.

McAliskey (née Devlin), Bernadette

Bernadette McAliskey, née Bernadette Devlin (1947-) is a political activist and former politician.

Born in Cookstown, Tyrone, she studied psychology at Queen&rsquos University, Belfast. A member of the People&rsquos Democracy, she participated in the civil rights marches of 1968-69. In 1969, she was elected to Westminster as an Independent Unity member for Mid-Ulster. At 21, she was the youngest woman ever elected. She was convicted of incitement to riot for her role in the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and was suspended from parliament in 1972 for attacking Home Secretary Reginald Maudling over Bloody Sunday. She lost her seat in 1974 but remained politically active, serving on the National Executive of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) in 1975.

Devlin was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, to a Catholic family, where she was the third eldest of six children born to John James and Elizabeth Bernadette Devlin. Her father raised her to hold Irish Republican ideals before he died when Bernadette was nine years old. Subsequently, the family had to depend on welfare to survive, an experience which affected Bernadette deeply. Bernadette's mother died when Bernadette was nineteen years old, leaving her to partially raise her siblings while also attending university. [3] [4]

She attended St Patrick's Girls Academy in Dungannon. [5] She was studying psychology at Queen's University Belfast in 1968 when she took a prominent role in a student-led civil rights organisation, People's Democracy. [6] Devlin was subsequently excluded from the university. [6]

She stood unsuccessfully against James Chichester-Clark in the 1969 Northern Ireland general election. When George Forrest, the MP for Mid Ulster, died, she fought the subsequent by-election on the "Unity" ticket, defeating the Ulster Unionist Party candidate, Forrest's widow Anna, and was elected to the Westminster Parliament. Aged 21, she was the youngest MP at the time, and remained the youngest woman ever elected to Westminster until the May 2015 general election when 20-year-old Mhairi Black eclipsed Devlin's achievement. [6] [7]

Devlin stood on the slogan "I will take my seat and fight for your rights" – signalling her rejection of the traditional Irish republican tactic of abstentionism. On 22 April 1969, the day before her 22nd birthday, she swore the Oath of Allegiance [8] and made her maiden speech within an hour. [9]

Battle of the Bogside Edit

After engaging, on the side of the residents, in the Battle of the Bogside in August, she was convicted of incitement to riot in December 1969, for which she served a short jail term. [10] After being re-elected at the 1970 general election, Devlin declared that she would sit in Parliament as an independent socialist. [11]

U.S. Tour Edit

Almost immediately after the Battle of the Bogside, Devlin undertook a tour of the United States in August 1969, a trip which generated a significant amount of media attention. She met with members of the Black Panther Party in Watts, Los Angeles 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 seeking civil rights and Catholics in Northern Ireland, sometimes to the embarrassment of her audience. During an event in Philadelphia, she had to goad an African-American singer to sing "We Shall Overcome" to the Irish-American audience, many of whom refused to stand for the song. In Detroit, she refused to take the stage until African-Americans, who were barred from the event, were allowed in. In New York, Mayor John Lindsay arranged a ceremony to present Devlin with a key to the city of New York. Devlin, frustrated with conservative elements of the Irish-American community, left the tour to return to Northern Ireland and, believing the freedom of New York should go to the American poor, sent Eamonn McCann to present the key on her behalf to a representative from the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party. [12] [13] [14]

Bloody Sunday Edit

Having witnessed the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972, Devlin was infuriated that she was later consistently denied the floor in the House of Commons by the Speaker Selwyn Lloyd, despite the fact that parliamentary convention decreed that any Member of Parliament witnessing an incident under discussion would be granted an opportunity to speak about it therein. [15] [16]

The day following Bloody Sunday, Devlin slapped Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling across the face when he incorrectly asserted in the House of Commons that the Parachute Regiment had fired in self-defence on Bloody Sunday. [6]

Thirteen years later, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath recalled the event: "I remember very well when an hon. Lady rushed from the Opposition Benches and hit Mr. Maudling. I remember that vividly because I thought that she was going to hit me. She could not stretch as far as that, so she had to make do with him." [17]

Irish Republican Socialist Party Edit

Devlin helped to form the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) with Seamus Costello in 1974. [18] This was a revolutionary socialist breakaway from Official Sinn Féin and, on the afternoon after the morning the party was established, Costello also created the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) as a split from the Official Irish Republican Army. [19] Devlin did not join the INLA and while she served on the party's national executive in 1975, she resigned when a proposal that the INLA become subordinate to the party executive was defeated. In 1977, she joined the Independent Socialist Party, but it disbanded the following year. [20]

Support for prisoners Edit

Devlin stood as an independent candidate in support of the prisoners on the blanket protest and dirty protest at Long Kesh prison in the 1979 elections to the European Parliament in the Northern Ireland constituency, and won 5.9% of the vote. [21] She was a leading spokesperson for the Smash H-Block Campaign, which supported the hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981.

Wounded in loyalist shooting Edit

On 16 January 1981, Devlin and her husband were shot by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, a cover name of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), who broke into their home near Coalisland, County Tyrone. [22] [23] The gunmen shot Devlin nine times in front of her children. [24]

British soldiers were watching the McAliskey home at the time, but they failed to prevent the assassination attempt. It has been claimed that Devlin's assassination was ordered by British authorities and that collusion was a factor. [6] [25] An army patrol of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment entered the house and waited for half an hour. Devlin has claimed they were waiting for the couple to die. Another group of soldiers then arrived and transported her by helicopter to a nearby hospital. [26]

The paramilitaries had torn out the telephone and, while the wounded couple were being given first aid by the newly arrived troops, a soldier ran to a neighbour's house, commandeered a car, and drove to the home of a councillor to telephone for help. The couple were taken by helicopter to hospital in nearby Dungannon for emergency treatment and then to the Musgrave Park Hospital, Military Wing, in Belfast, under intensive care. [27] [28]

The attackers—Ray Smallwoods, Tom Graham (38), both from Lisburn, and Andrew Watson (25) from Seymour Hill, Dunmurry—were captured by the army patrol and subsequently jailed. [29] All three were members of the South Belfast UDA. Smallwoods was the driver of the getaway car. [30]

She twice failed, in February and November 1982, in attempts to be elected to the Dublin North-Central constituency of the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann. [31]

In 2003 she was barred from entering the United States and deported on the grounds that the United States Department of State had declared her to pose "a serious threat to the security of the United States" [32] – apparently referring to her conviction for incitement to riot in 1969 – although she protested that she had no terrorist involvement and had frequently been permitted to travel to the United States in the past. [32] [33] [34]

McAliskey is chief executive of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP) and was involved in its founding in 1997. [35] STEP provides a range of services and advocacy in areas including community development, training, support and advice for migrants, policy work, and community enterprise. [36]

In 1994, McAliskey attended the funeral of former Irish National Liberation Army Chief of Staff Dominic McGlinchey. The INLA had been the armed wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, which McAliskey had helped found. During the funeral, she condemned the recent press coverage which had accused McGlinchey of drug dealing and criminality and said of the journalists responsible that they were [37] "curs and dogs. May every one of them rot in hell. They have taken away Dominic McGlinchy's character and they will stand judgement for it. He was the finest Republican of them all. He never dishonoured the cause he believed in. His war was with the armed soldiers and the police of this state". [38]

In 1971, while still unmarried, she gave birth to a daughter, Róisín, [6] which cost her some political support. [39] She married Michael McAliskey on her 26th birthday on 23 April 1973. [40]

On 12 May 2007, she was a guest speaker at the socialist republican political party Éirígí's first Annual James Connolly commemoration in Arbour Hill, Dublin. [41] She works with migrant workers to improve their treatment in Northern Ireland. [6]

In 1969, director and producer John Goldschmidt made the documentary film Bernadette Devlin for ATV, which was shown on the British television channel ITV and on the American television channel CBS's 60 Minutes programme, and included footage of Devlin during the Battle of the Bogside. Another documentary, Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey, directed by Irish programme-maker Leila Doolan, was released in 2011. [42] At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival a biographical film of Devlin was announced, [6] but she stated that "the whole concept is abhorrent to me" and the film was not made.

McAliskey, and her assault on the British Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, after the Bloody Sunday massacre, were the subject of the title song of the 1990 music album, Slap! by anarchist pop/punk band Chumbawamba. [ citation needed ]

The Irish people who have been barred from the US

Gerry Adams, the former head of the Sinn Féin political party, was denied entry to the United States on several occasions, primarily because he refused to denounce violence.

In 1994, however, Adams was famously granted a 48-hour visa to enter the country by then-President Bill Clinton in order to attend a conference in New York. While there, he was not permitted to travel any further than 25 miles outside of New York City.

Gerry Adams in New York in February 1994 (Getty Images)

Despite going on to visit the US several times more after the highly-publicized 1994 visit, Adams was again denied a visa to enter the country in 2006 after being refused a fundraising visa.

Later, in 2009, Adams attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama as a guest of Congressman Richard Neal. He has since visited the country many times.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

Bernadette Devlin in 1969 (Getty Images)

In 1969, 21-year-old Derry native Bernadette Devlin was the youngest person ever to be elected to the British parliament - a record she maintained until 2015 - and was sworn in April. Later that year, Devlin emerged as a leader amongst the residents who engaged in the Battle of the Bogside between August 12 and 14.

Only days after the Battle, Devlin headed stateside where she embarked on a tour of the US speaking of the Catholic oppression in Northern Ireland and likening it to the civil rights movement in the US.

Watch a clip of Devlin on 'Meet the Press' in 1969:

In December 1969, Devlin was convicted of “incitement to riot” for her involvement with the Battle of the Bogside and served a short jail sentence.

Afterward, Devlin continued her political career and frequently visited the US. However, in 2003, while traveling with her daughter Deirdre, Devlin was refused entry to the US after arriving in Chicago. The State Department at the time said that Devlin “poses a serious threat to the security of the United States,” presumably in relation to her 1969 arrest.

Deirdre told CounterPunch: “I can’t imagine what threat they could think she poses to US security. Unless the threat is knowing too much and saying it too well.”

Bernadette Devlin at the funeral for Dolours Price (

Shane Paul O’Doherty

O’Doherty, a native of Derry, joined the IRA when he was 15 years old where he learned how to make “incendiary devices.”

As a member of the IRA, O’Doherty was sent to London in 1973 where he now admits to sending “dozens and dozens of letter bombs. To Downing Street, the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, judges, generals, and the Home Secretary Reginald Maudling, whom I held responsible for Bloody Sunday. He was injured opening it. This was the politics of revenge. An eye for an eye.”

In 1976, O’Doherty was sentenced to 30 consecutive life sentences for his crimes, of which he only ended up serving 14 years. In prison, O’Doherty formally resigned from the IRA and called for them to lay down their arms.

After his release from prison, O’Doherty went on to study at Trinity College in Dublin. There, he met his future wife Michelle Sweeney, an American woman. In 2005, The Boston Globe reported: “Sweeney accepted an offer to teach in the United States, but O'Doherty could not get a visa to live there because of his criminal record. In the late 1990s, even as other former IRA members who never expressed remorse for their violent deeds flitted in and out of the United States promoting the peace process, O'Doherty was repeatedly denied permission to enter.”

O’Doherty told The Belfast Telegraph: “Michelle got a job in the US and moved back there. I tried to join her but I couldn't get a visa because of my IRA record.

“I'd been in and out of the US for years, but after 9/11 everything changed. Michelle sought a divorce and the marriage was later annulled.”

You can watch a documentary about O'Doherty and his journey to repentance:

Marian Price McGlinchey

Marian Price in 2011 (

In 1973, Belfast-born Marian Price and her sister Dolours were among those was jailed for their involvement with the IRA-organized London bombings at the Old Bailey and London army recruitment offices. Price was sentenced to a life sentence in prison but was released in 1980 on humanitarian grounds.

In December 1999, Price - now using her married name McGlinchey - was refused a visa to enter the US where she was due to speak at a fundraising event in New York organized the Irish Freedom Committee.