As part of Ms Kelly’s generation I can understand her almost embarrassment at her lack of awareness regarding Ms Devlin-McAliskey’s illustrious and impressive past and the prominent role she played in Irish history, a role largely neglected by the generation of today.
Although hardly a scholar of the history of Northern Ireland myself, my mother grew up during the era of the Troubles and often spoke of her admiration for Ms Devlin-McAliskey, a firebrand and tireless campaigner for women’s and civil rights during some of the most turbulent times on our Ireland.
This is perhaps why she is largely forgotten. Mentions of the Troubles automatically conjure up in the Irish conscience scenes of violence, bombings and shootings, all in the name of Irish sovereignty and independence.
This correlation is disturbing and sad as what is largely forgotten is that not everyone in Northern Ireland was willing to take a gun in their hands or throw a bomb to pry themselves away from British rule.
No, for the majority of people all they sought was a level playing field, for the rights extended to other peoples in the UK to be bestowed on them, giving the fact that many were living in abject poverty and discriminated against, without radical political orientation, just looking for a better future.
In this regard it is names like Hume and Devlin that resound in the aeons of time, resilient crusaders highlighting the plight of the common people.
In recent years the sad decline of the health of John Hume makes the figure of Devlin-McAliskey all the more impressive, as Ms Kelly mentioned in her piece, highlighting her ongoing work today on a number of women’s and civil rights issues, maintaining that fiery resolve which first brought her to prominence in the late ’60s. She is the kind of hero that needs to be exalted in our history books.
Marc Ó Cochláin