When, on the day before her 22nd birthday in April 1969, Irish psychology student Bernadette Devlin became the youngest woman ever elected (for the Northern Ireland constituency of Mid-Ulster) into the British House of Commons, she caused an international sensation.
She made her first speech – about civil rights for Roman Catholics – within an hour of taking her seat.
In December 1969, a magistrates court in Londonderry sentenced her to six months in jail for riotous behaviour and incitement to riot in Londonderry between 12-14 August. The Northern Ireland Appeal Court in Belfast rejected her appeal and refused her permission to appeal to the House of Lords.
For her Catholic supporters, she was now a martyr – “Northern Ireland’s Joan of Arc”.
She kept her House of Commons seat despite her jail sentence and her parliamentary salary was paid in full while she was in prison.
Devlin served five years in the House of Commons, where she once slapped Home Secretary Reginald Maulding in the face in an argument over “Bloody Sunday“.
She married greyhound trainer and former teacher Michael McAliskey in 1973.
In 1981, She and her husband were gunned down by masked terrorists at their home, (in front of the couple’s three young children). Devlin was hit seven times in the chest, hip and leg, while her husband was hit by three bullets in the abdomen and arm.
The terrorists were captured without a fight after they discarded their weapons.