Bernadette Devlin – This Week;s Profile in Women’s History

In 1969, at the age of 21, Bernadette Devlin became the youngest member of the UK Parliament when she was elected to represent the Mid-Ulster constituency of Northern Ireland. Devlin had previously been a Psychology student at Queens University in Belfast until she was expelled for leading a student rights protest. In 1969 she was convicted of incitement to riot in what was known as the ‘Battle of the Bogside’.

In 1972, Devlin was a witness to the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’, when British paratroopers shot and killed 14 unarmed demonstrators during a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland. When she heard UK Home Secretary Reginald Maudling claim that the paratroopers had fired in self-defense, she slapped him across the face.

She was a leading spokesperson for the demands of Irish political prisoners held in the H-Block prison complex.  On 16 January, 1981, members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, a Loyalist paramilitary group, broke into her home and shot her seven times.

In honor of her activism, she was made a citizen of New York and San Francisco.

In 2003, when she arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, she was immediately seized and deported on the grounds that the Department of State had declared that she “poses a serious threat to the security of the United States”.

Her book, ‘The Price of My Soul’, is available in campus libraries which University Staff can access by use of their WisCard ID.