Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy birthday, Bernadette!

I got to meet Bernadette Devlin McAlliskey one time back in the 1980's when she spoke in Vermont. The group I was part of at the time, the Vermont Committee for Irish Human Rights sponsored her speech at the Barre Opera House, and she was great.

Devlin has been a great hero since she was first elected to the English Parliament at age 21, and was immediately famous for her electrifying maiden speech on the floor. She was also a witness to the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry but was refused the right to speak on the subject, and then punched Reginald Maudling, the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the Conservative government, when he made a statement to Parliament on Bloody Sunday stating that the British Army had fired only in self-defence.[1][6] She was temporarily suspended from Parliament as a result of the incident.

She told us the story of the assassination attempt she survived in 1981. A member of a Protestant paramilitary group broke into her house and shot her and her husband. Before anyone could call the police the English soldiers were at the door. As the police came in the building, she heard the assassin say, "Well fuck this for a dirty job."

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