Bernadette Devlin McAliskey (born 1947) was a student at Queen‘s University, Belfast, when the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland took to the streets in 1968. Bernadette became its radical icon and she was elected to the House of Commons in 1969. Having lost that seat in 1974, she campaigned for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) hunger strikers in 1980/81. In recent years, she has opposed the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998 on the grounds that it cemented British rule and Irish partition.
"So, people now want much more than they would happily have settled for. If, instead of beating our heads on 5th October 1968, the government had given us housing and votes, we would probably all have gone home and left it at that," says Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. After the murderous ambush on herself and her husband by loyalist killers in 1981, Bernadette understandably does not welcome strangers to her home in the town of Coalisland. It was most surprising to see how much she had aged and how careless she had become about her appearance. Was this the older version of the girl in the mini skirt who had slapped a British Home Secretary in the House of Commons? Yet, her sharp and unforgetabble analysis of the conflict in Northern Ireland is punctuated by a wry humor and her eyes sparkle like they must have done all that time ago. Bernadette still is a formidable foe of all those who have settled comfortably into the status quo. She lamented the British obsession with security legislation and policy at the time and speaks about a government that only understood the language of force. "And people like myself are left bankrupt and are consistently arguing, as we do, that there is some other way." She has, therefore, never fully answered the question about her attitude to violence – she would probably say it is the wrong question. And so, she has, over the years, mixed with curious people, always searching for political soul mates but rarely finding them. She was always stronger in her analysis of the past and present than in her expectancies for the future. Because, whereas her own motivation has, over time, clearly become ideological and favorably disposed to the radical left, the guiding forces in Northern Ireland have remained tribal. Today, Bernadette has become a marginal, slightly bitter voice, but powerful nonetheless whenever she chooses to speak up.
Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP)