Bernadette Devlin in mural by Susan Greene
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Bernadette Devlin

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is a world-renowned civil rights activist. She was elected to the British Parliament from Northern Ireland in 1969, when she was just 21 years old. She was the youngest British MP in history. She remains the youngest woman ever to have been elected to British parliament.

In August of that year she was arrested during the "Battle of the Bogside," an uprising in Derry that marked the beginning of 30 years of armed resistance to the British occupation of Northern Ireland. She served four months in prison for inciting a riot while she was still an MP. Speaking just before her arrest Devlin said: "I was involved with people in defending their area. They were justified in defending themselves and I believe I was justified in assisting their defence."

Over the years she continued her activism. In 1981, she and her husband were shot by members of a Protestant paramilitary group at their farmhouse near Belfast. Bernadette was struck by nine bullets.

In 2003, she was barred from entering the United States and deported on the grounds that the State Department had declared that she "poses a serious threat to the security of the United States", although she protested that she had no terrorist involvement — hinging ostensibly on her conviction for incitement to riot in 1969 — but had been permitted to frequently travel to the United States in the past.

McAliskey remains an active commentator and activist on the margins of Northern Irish politics.


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