Episode #21: Bernadette Devlin McAliskey – “A Terrible State o’ Chassis”

We are seeing Ireland north and south being sold to corporate powers

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is Ireland’s finest political orator, and a key figure in recent political history.

In this lecture she takes as her theme a line from playwright Sean O’Casey, ‘A Terrible State o’ Chassis’, where chassis means ‘crisis’.

Bernadette Devlin (later Devlin McAliskey) as a 22-year old psychology student and People’s Democracy candidate, in Belfast.

While still a student at Queen’s University, she and her colleagues in the newly-formed People’s Democracy transformed political resistance in the Northern Irish statelet by spearheading a socialist, anti-sectarian, mass movement for change.

In 1969 she became the youngest woman ever to enter the Westminster parliament, having become a leading organizer on the barricades in Derry during the Battle of the Bogside.

The following year, when Mayor John Lindsay awarded her with a golden key to the city of New York, she passed it on to the Black Panther party, saying ‘I return what is rightfully theirs, this symbol of the freedom of New York.’

‘Bernadette’ as she is still known, currently works supporting migrants’ rights in South Tyrone and remains an iconoclast, a speaker of truth to power, and the unforgettable voice of the Troubles.

‘A Terrible State o’ Chassis’ was the 2nd Annual Seamus Deane Lecture, hosted by Field Day, at the Playhouse, Derry, on 30 September 2016. A video of the lecture has attracted an enormous number of views, so we are making it available to our podcast listeners here.

The Seamus Deane Lecture Series brings to Derry and other Irish cities some of the world’s leading artists and thinkers who have the potential to make the city an international centre of intellectual discovery every year. Listen back to all the lectures here.