Bernadette Devlin

17th April, 1969:

Devlin is youngest-ever woman MP.

A 21-year-old woman, Bernadette Devlin, has become Britain's youngest ever female MP and the third youngest MP ever.

Standing as an independent Unity candidate, Miss Devlin wrested the seat of Mid-Ulster in Northern Ireland from the Ulster Unionists.

In a straight fight she defeated Anna Forrest, the widow of the late MP George Forrest, by more than 4,000 votes.

At the last general election Mr Forrest had a majority of just over 2,500.

It was only Miss Devlin's second foray into politics after standing against Northern Ireland's agriculture minister, James Chichester -Clark, in February's Stormont elections.

She polled nearly 6,000 votes against Major Chichester -Clark's 9,000.

In Mid-Ulster Miss Devlin was helped by the constituency's natural Catholic majority of about 4,000 and the fact that Mrs Forrest did not campaign at all.


The young MP, a Catholic, has declared her sympathies with the IRA and her win has dismayed Northern Ireland's Protestant community.

However, the Queen's University psychology student has always said her approach is non-sectarian and she wants to promote unity among the people of Ireland.

A leading figure in the student civil rights movement, Miss Devlin said her political ambitions were only awakened last October after she took part in a march that was violently suppressed by the police.

After her victory, Miss Devlin who turns 22 next Wednesday, said she would raise issues concerning Ulster in the House of Commons.

"I was elected by the oppressed people of Ulster and I shall work for them," she said.

She did not yet know when she would take her seat in Westminster or where, as an independent, she would sit, Miss Devlin added.

In Context

Bernadette Devlin took her seat in Westminster on her 22nd birthday.

Her maiden speech was described as "electrifying" by the Conservative MP Sir Norman St John Stevas .

Her time in the House of Commons was eventful.

She once assaulted Home Secretary Reginald Maudling and accused him of lying over the events of Bloody Sunday.

She received a nine-month prison sentence for taking part in the sectarian riots in Londonderry in August 1969.

However, Bernadette Devlin lost much Catholic support following the birth of an illegitimate daughter in 1971.

She did not stand for re-election in 1974 but continued to support republican causes.

In 1981 she and her husband, Michael McAliskey, survived an assassination attempt when gunmen burst into their house and shot them.

Source : BBC

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