Bernadette working for a shared future…

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey has had a chequered political career, ever since winning the Mid Ulster seat April 1969 as the youngest ever MP. Even then, her politics defied easy categorisation, going against traditional Republican abstentionism, she called herself and independent socialist, on occasions she lit up the Commons, not least with a physical attack on the then Home Secretary Reggie Maudling. Older, though, she says, just as awkward, McAliskey is involved in what she calls a bottom peace process, that bears little or no relationship to the top down process at Stormont. The aim is to build social cohesion amongst the diverse communities of South Tyrone.For that bigger process, she has little time:

…yes, there is a real buzz here now but part of that is the result of spending 10 years only seeing what is comforting and good to see.” The awkwardness of Devlin is that she will insist, while others are reaping the peace dividend, on talking up all the issues that still need to be addressed, issues which, she says, were hidden by the Troubles.

On her list is the need to end segregated schooling (“buy up all the buildings and establish integrated schools tomorrow. It was in my manifesto in the 1960s”), the abolition of the Eleven-Plus exam (“it is a violation of a child’s human rights”), better care for the disabled, and action to tackle the urban/rural divide in the North.

There seems to be a note of anger somewhere in her voice at the way things have turned out. She sighs. “When I was younger, the anger was all from the heart up. It came from my heart and it came out of my mouth. The anger has not gone away. Anger is deep-seated. It’s not all right. But it’s not personalised anger. People ask me about the things they think are most important. And I say – which is what I feel – Bloody Sunday was not by any stretch of the imagination the worst thing that happened to me. It was the worst thing that happened to others – the families in Derry, for instance. If you say, ‘What is the worst thing that happened to me?’ then 1969 to 1999 is the worst thing that happened to me and lots of other people who lived through that period. Thirty years of my life is the worst thing that happened to me. And that doesn’t get better.”

  • Dewi

    And 60 years old ! – where did those years go ?

  • Cruimh

    Most interesting politician of her generation in NI by far – If she had been born across the water I suspect she would have been a Labour Party leader if not Prime Minister

  • Dewi

    Hells bells cruimh – what’s got into you ?

  • Cruimh

    I remember her from those days Dewi – if you haven’t read her book, The Price Of My Soul, buy it!

  • Dewi

    I’ve finished “Speckled” – re -read Donnelly cos of ur stupid famine stuff – let me read a detective novel next FFS !

  • Cruimh

    Try some Liam O’Flaherty -The Informer will put hairs on your chest! Or some McGahern 🙂

  • Dewi

    It didn’t say in the Independent what her current political allegiance is. Surely should be in the Assembly ?

  • slug

    She appears to have decided not to comment much on current politics. Perhaps to the relief of many!

  • Pete Baker

    From a recently noted appearance

    Peace has been bought in Northern Ireland by “perjury, fraud, corruption, cheating and lying”, according to socialist and community activist Bernadette McAliskey.

  • slug

    “Peace has been bought in Northern Ireland by “perjury, fraud, corruption, cheating and lying”, according to socialist and community activist Bernadette McAliskey.”

    We all know that.

    Did she say anything controversial?

  • Ben

    Last year at the Guildhall in Derry Bernadette said, along with her usual song and dance, “the terrible thing about the Holocaust is that it led to the creation of the State of Israel.” So she gets credit for the good she did in the past, but clearly the years have turned her brains to shite. Or maybe she just lacks a filter on her mouth. Pity no one in the audience saw fit to question that stunning remark. Maybe they just expect it from her.

  • So she’s a socialist and community worker but woe to ypu if you happen to be a Jew on her patch?

  • I Wonder

    “she gets credit for the good she did in the past”

    Not clear what she did in the past that was “good” or in any way substantive.

    She strickes me as simply a media creation and a a child of a “radical” time. Its laughable to think that the good people of Fermanagh and Tyrone, in voting for her, had been won over to revolutionary socialism rather than the novelty of a wee Catholic girl from a good family (and wearng a miniskirt) and who was guaranteed be a media darlin’ – for approximately 15 minutes.

    Building a bottom up process at present would sem to be a belatedly “good thing” in which she might be engaged.

  • Ben,

    It may surprise you that the creation of the state of Israel is also seen by many other people around the world as the pivotal point in the creation of todays most serious global conflict.

    I think that Bernadette had every right to express that viewpoint bearing in mind Israel’s illegal occupation of another country and the countless deaths perpetrated by that regime.

  • Cruimh

    I agre Mac. She could and should have phrased it differently.

  • Ben

    C’mon macswiney, be serious. Fine, you want to make the Israel/Palestine thing pivotal in the today’s most serious global conflict, we can debate about that a lot (how many dead in Iraq so far? Don’t blame that on the Israel/Palestine intramurals). But with so many millions dead in the holocaust, does it make any sense at all to describe the holocaust as terrible because it led to Israel (also a simplification)? Her perspective is warped, so, apparently, is yours. Slam Israel if you like (hopefully on the merits), but why trivialize genocide? Was the terrible thing about the genocide of Armenians that it contributed to the creation of Turkey, which today represses Kurds? Too much glad handing and back bending in order to poke at one particular pet peeve makes no sense. Ben

  • Diluted Orange

    Pounder

    [i]So she’s a socialist and community worker but woe to ypu if you happen to be a Jew on her patch?[/i]

    So a bit like Stalin then?

  • Dewi

    “She strickes me as simply a media creation and a a child of a “radical” time. Its laughable to think that the good people of Fermanagh and Tyrone, in voting for her, had been won over to revolutionary socialism rather than the novelty of a wee Catholic girl from a good family”

    It was Mid Ulster methinks ? – did that include any of Fermanagh ?

  • Diluted Orange

    Dewi

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Bernadette’s Westminster win happen before the boundary changes came in that saw the creation of the FST constituency?

  • Diluted Orange
  • Dewi

    Sorry DO (on Youtube !)- Mid Ulster changes all the time but don’t think contained any Fermanagh at the time.

  • dewi

    I’m still astonished at how quickly those years have gone – and so many wasted – used to fancy Bernadette like hell (I was only a dwt mind honest).

    Hope the bottom up stuff goes well.

  • I Wonder

    Dewi:

    I recall a poster campaign featuring her boat race at about the time of the 81 hunger strikes. If you fancied THAT, I’m afraid there is really no hope 🙂