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Bernadette Devlin


About Bernadette Devlin:

Dates: April 23, 1947 -

Occupation: activist; member, British Parliament, from Mid-Ulster, 1969-1974

Known for: youngest woman elected to the British Parliament

Also known as: Bernadette Josephine Devlin, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Bernadette McAliskey, Mrs. Michael McAliskey

Background, Family:

  • Father: John James Devlin (died when Bernadette was 9)
  • Mother: Elizabeth Bernadette Devlin (died when Bernadette was 18)
  • third of six children
  • born in Cookstown, County Tyrone


  • St. Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, County Tyrone
  • Queen's University, Belfast (studied psychology)

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Michael McAliskey (married 1973; teacher)
  • children: Róisín Elizabeth McAliskey, Deirdre McAliskey, one other

Bernadette Devlin Biography:

Bernadette Devlin, a radical feminist and Catholic activist in Northern Ireland, was a founder of People's Democracy. After one failed attempt to be elected, she became the youngest woman ever elected to Parliament in 1969, running as a socialist.

Devlin was part of the August, 1969, "Battle of the Bogside," which attempted to exclude police from the Catholic section of Bogside. Devlin then traveled to the United States and met with the Secretary General of the United Nations. She was given the keys to the city of New York -- and handed them over to the Black Panther Party. When she returned, she was sentenced to six months for her role in the Bogside battle. She served her term after being reelected to Parliament.

She published her autobiography, The Price of My Soul, in 1969, to show the roots of her activism in the social conditions in which she was raised.

In 1972, Bernadette Devlin assaulted the home secretary, Reginald Maudling, after "Bloody Sunday" when 13 people were killed in Derry when British forces broke up a meeting.

Devlin married Michael McAliskey in 1973, and lost her seat in Parliament in 1974. They were among the founders of the Irish Republican Socialist Party in 1974. Devlin ran unsuccessfully in later years for the European Parliament and the Irish legislature, the Dail Eireann. In 1981, she and her husband were victims of an attempted assassination by the Unionist Ulster Defense Association, despite British Army protection of their home.

In more recent years, Devlin was in the news for her support for gays and lesbians who wanted to march in New York's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. In 1996, her daughter Róisín McAliskey was arrested in Germany in connection with an IRA bombing of a British Army barracks; Devlin protested her pregnant daughter's innocence and demanded her release.

In 2003, she was barred from entering the United States and deported on grounds of posing a "serious threat to the security of the United States," though she had been permitted entry many other times.

Religion: Roman Catholic (anti-clerical)

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