Paddy Devlin (1925-99)

b. 8 March, 1925, Pound Loney, Lwr. Falls Road, Belfast; joined Na Fianna, 1936 [aetat. 11]; IRA volunteer, 1942; charged with membership and imprisoned in Crumlin Rd. during WWII, 1942-45; left IRA, 1950, and worked in Portsmouth and later in a Coventry car-factory; joined Trade Union movement; returned to Belfast, 1948; formed, with others, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1950, and moved to the Irish Labour Party when the former split over partition, 1958; m. Theresa Duffy, 1950 - with whom two sons and three dgs.; served as Party Chairman, 1967-68; defeated Gerry Fitt in Belfast City Council election; fnd. Northern Ireland Civil Rights Assoc. (NICRA); greeted James Callaghan on his visit as Home Secretary to Belfast;
Irish Labour Party in NI fatally damaged by Catholic Action charges of communism; joined the reformed Northern Ireland Labour Party, and elected to Stormont, defeating Harry Diamond, 1969; fnder-member of Socialist Democratic Labour Party, with Austin Curry, Gerry Fitt and John Hume, 1970; elected to Northern Ireland Assembly, 1973; served as a member of power-sharing executive as Min. of Health and Social Services, Jan.-May, 1974, and widely praised by all sides - though also given to verbal outbreaks prompted by co-minister Roy Bradford;
long resisted IRA attempts to drive him from his home in West Belfast; acted as go-between in early British talks between William Whitelaw and Gerry Adams, 1973; publicly condemned assassination of Ronald Bunting (of the NLA), supposedly by UDA but probably by SAS, 1980; with others campaigned for survival of the Linen Hall Library, 1981; served as Area [district] Sec. of ITGWU for Northern Ireland, 1976-85; expelled from NILP, accusing John Hume of turning SDLP into a nationalist party and ignoring Protestant working-class interests, and yielding to Catholic hierarchy control, 1977; formed his own United Labour Party, and was heavily beaten in European MP elections, with 1% of the poll, 1979;
lost his seat on the City Council, 1985; attempted to united NI socialist groups by forming Labour ’87 in 1987; issued Yes, We Have No Bananas, Outdoor Relief Belfast 1920-1929 (1985), written as an MSc. dissertation; also an autobiography, Straight Left (Blackstaff 1993), winner of The Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Non-Fiction; accepted CBE from the British Government, 1999; d. 15 Agu. 1999; commended in review by Brian Lenihan shortly before his death; a dg. attended TCD in the late 1960s; his papers, donated by his widow Theresa, are held as the Paddy Devlin Archive at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast. DUB

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Yes, We Have No Bananas, Outdoor Relief Belfast 1920-1929 (Belfast: Blackstaff [1985]), ix, 195pp.; Straight Left: An Autobiography, foreword by Chris Ryder (Belfast: Blackstaff 1993).


See obituary in Independent [UK] (17 Agu. 1999): ‘His finest moment was as minister for health and social services in the power-sharing government of 1974, but that lasted for only five months before being brought crashing down by a loyalist general strike. / The irony in this summed up the central difficulty in Paddy Devlin’s lifelong and alas quixotic political aspiration. He wanted above all to see unity between the Protestant and Catholic sections of the working class, but both sides were uninterested in this. / He will probably be remembered not so much for his political activities as for his outsize personality. [...]’- online [accessed 18.09.2012]

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