Michelle O'Neill

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Michelle O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill (cropped from Martin McGuinness, Michelle O'Neill, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams).jpg
Vice President of Sinn Féin
Assumed office
10 February 2018
LeaderMary Lou McDonald
Preceded byMary Lou McDonald
Minister of Health
In office
25 May 2016 – 2 March 2017
First MinisterArlene Foster
Deputy First MinisterMartin McGuinness
Preceded bySimon Hamilton (Health, Social Services and Public Safety)
Succeeded byVacant
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
In office
5 May 2011 – 6 May 2016
First MinisterPeter Robinson
Arlene Foster
Deputy First MinisterMartin McGuinness
Preceded byMichelle Gildernew
Succeeded byMichelle McIlveen (Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs)
Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone
In office
June 2010 – June 2011
Preceded byFrancie Molloy
Succeeded byKenneth Reid
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid Ulster
Assumed office
7 March 2007
Preceded byGeraldine Dougan
Personal details
Born
Michelle Doris

(1977-01-10) 10 January 1977 (age 42)
Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partySinn Féin
Spouse(s)
Paddy O'Neill
(m. 1995; separated 2014)
Children2
WebsiteOfficial website

Michelle O'Neill (née Doris; born 10 January 1977) is an Irish politician who has served as Vice President of Sinn Féin since February 2018. She has been a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Mid Ulster since 2007. In the Northern Ireland Executive, she previously served as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2016 and Minister of Health from 2016 to 2017.[1][2][3][4][5]

Background[edit]

O'Neill comes from an Irish republican family in Clonoe, County Tyrone. She was born in Fermoy, County Cork. Her father Brendan Doris was a Provisional IRA prisoner and Sinn Féin councillor.[6] Her uncle Paul Doris is a former national president of the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID).[7] A cousin, Tony Doris, was one of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in 1991.[8] Another cousin, IRA volunteer Gareth Malachy Doris, was shot and wounded during the 1997 Coalisland attack.[9]

After the death of Brendan Doris in 2006, Martin McGuinness paid tribute to the Doris family as "a well-known and respected republican family [who] have played a significant role in the republican struggle for many years".[10]

O'Neill attended St. Patrick's Girls' Academy, a Catholic grammar school in Dungannon, Tyrone.[11] She subsequently began to train as an accounting technician, before pursuing a political career.[11]

Political career[edit]

Early career[edit]

O'Neill became involved in republican politics in her teens,[6] assisting her father with constituency work in his role as a Dungannon councillor.[7] She joined Sinn Féin after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, at the age of 21,[11][8] and started working as an advisor to Francie Molloy in the Northern Ireland Assembly. She kept this role until 2005,[10] when she was elected to represent the Torrent electoral area on Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, taking the seat which had been vacated by her father.[12] O'Neill was elected as an MLA for Mid Ulster in the 2007 Assembly election, succeeding her Sinn Féin colleague Geraldine Dougan.[12] While a backbencher in the Assembly, she sat on Stormont's education and health committees.[13] In 2010, she became Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone.[14] O'Neill was the first woman to hold the position of Mayor, as well as one of the youngest people.[6] She held the council position until 2011.[12]

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development[edit]

O'Neill succeeded Michelle Gildernew as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive after the 2011 Assembly election.[15] One of her key decisions in the role was the relocation of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's headquarters from Belfast to a former British Army barracks in Ballykelly, County Londonderry in a bid to decentralise civil service jobs.[16] The decision overruled an internal report on the matter, which recommended Strabane as a more appropriate location.[11]

In December 2013, the High Court quashed a decision by O'Neill to reallocate 7% of Common Agricultural Policy funds to rural development projects that had been favoured by environmentalists.[17] The court ruled that she was in breach of the Ministerial Code, having not sought the necessary permissions for the transfer from the Executive.[17]

Minister of Health[edit]

O'Neill replaced the Democratic Unionist Party's Simon Hamilton as Minister of Health following the 2016 election. After just eight days in office, she announced she would be scrapping the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in Northern Ireland.[18] On 25 October 2016, O'Neill unveiled a document titled Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together, a ten-year plan based on the findings of the Bengoa Report which aims to modernise the health and social care system.[19]

Vice President of Sinn Féin[edit]

In January 2017, when Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy First Minister in protest against the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, and said that he would not stand in the resulting snap election, O'Neill was chosen as Sinn Féin's new "party leader in the North".[note 1][3][22] The fact that she was favoured for the leadership ahead of former IRA member Conor Murphy marked a notable break in the leadership's direct association with the organisation.[8][23]

In the election that followed McGuinness's resignation, O'Neill was returned to the Assembly, topping the poll in Mid Ulster and with a 20.6% share of first-preference votes.[24][25] In March 2017, she called for a referendum on Irish unity "as soon as possible" in response to the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union.[26] O'Neill led the Sinn Féin side in the inter-party negotiations that followed the election, aiming to restore a power-sharing coalition in Northern Ireland, but said at the end of March that the talks had failed, and Sinn Féin would not nominate her for the position of deputy First Minister.[27][28]

In February 2018, O'Neill became vice president of Sinn Féin, succeeding Mary Lou McDonald who became president following the retirement of Gerry Adams.[29] In November 2019 she faced a leadership challenge from John O'Dowd, winning with 67% of the vote.[30]

Personal life[edit]

O'Neill became pregnant at the age of 16. She married Paddy O'Neill when she was 18. Together they have two children. They separated in 2014.[10][11][31]

Electoral history[edit]

Northern Ireland Assembly elections

Year Constituency Party First-preference votes % Result
2007 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 6,432 14.5 Elected
2011 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 5,178 11.9 Elected
2016 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 6,147 15.1 Elected
2017 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 10,258 20.6 Elected[32]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ O'Neill has been variously described as Sinn Féin's leader in Northern Ireland,[20] or leader in the Northern Ireland Assembly,[21] Sinn Féin stated her title was "party leader in the North".[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "New northern Sinn Féin leader tells both governments to step up to the plate". 23 January 2017. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  2. ^ "We stand for equality, respect and integrity – O'Neill". www.sinnfein.ie. Archived from the original on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Michelle O'Neill takes over as new Sinn Féin leader in North". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  4. ^ Mid Ulster Archived 10 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine, ARK.ac.uk; accessed 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ "The Northern Ireland Assembly". Archived from the original on 2 May 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "5 things you should know about Michelle O'Neill, the new Sinn Fein leader at Stormont". The Irish News. 23 January 2017. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b Breen, Suzanne (23 January 2017). "How does SF's Michelle O'Neill measure up to Arlene Foster?". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b c McDonald, Henry (23 January 2017). "Michelle O'Neill: new Sinn Féin leader marks republican sea change". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  9. ^ Barnes, Ciaran (20 February 2017). "Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill 'has no problem condemning criminality' after cousin convicted of fuel laundering". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "Who is Michelle O'Neill? Meet the new leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland". The Irish Post. 23 January 2017. Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Michelle O'Neill: Who is Sinn Féin's new Northern leader?". BBC News. 23 January 2017. Archived from the original on 25 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "Mid Ulster – Michelle O'Neill profile". Sinn Féin. Archived from the original on 17 December 2017.
  13. ^ Young, Connla. "Who is Michelle O'Neill?". The Irish News. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Sinn Fein lady Mayor in Dungannon". Tyrone Times. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Michelle new Agriculture Minister". Tyrone Times. 20 May 2011. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Department of Agriculture's Ballykelly HQ plans unveiled". BBC News. 30 April 2015. Archived from the original on 28 May 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  17. ^ a b Simpson, Mark (30 December 2013). "Michelle O'Neill will not challenge legal judgement". BBC News. Archived from the original on 28 May 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  18. ^ correspondent, Henry McDonald Ireland (2 June 2016). "Northern Ireland to lift ban on gay men donating blood". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  19. ^ "O'Neill launches 10 year vision for Health & Social Care". Health. 25 October 2016. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  20. ^ a b Breen, Suzanne (23 January 2017). "Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill poised to be selected as party's new leader in Northern Ireland". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  21. ^ McDonald, Henry (19 November 2017). "Search for new Sinn Féin leader begins after Gerry Adams steps down". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  22. ^ McDonald, Henry (23 January 2017). "Sinn Féin names Michelle O'Neill as new leader in Northern Ireland". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  23. ^ McKeown, Gareth. "Michelle O'Neill set to be named new Sinn Féin leader at Stormont". The Irish News. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill tops poll in Mid Ulster". ITV News. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  25. ^ "NI Assembly Election 2017 Result Sheet – Mid Ulster (XLS)". The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland – EONI. Archived from the original on 30 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Michelle O'Neill calls for 'urgent' referendum on Irish unity". BBC News. 13 March 2017. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  27. ^ "NI political talks have run their course, says Sinn Féin". BBC News. 26 March 2017. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  28. ^ McDonald, Henry (26 March 2017). "Northern Ireland power-sharing talks break down". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  29. ^ Preiss, Bert (2020). Conflict at the Interface: Local Community Divisions and Hegemonic Forces in Northern Ireland. LIT Verlag. p. 97. ISBN 978-3643911919.
  30. ^ "Sinn Féin: O'Neill polled 67% in deputy leadership contest". BBC. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  31. ^ Preston, Allan (6 February 2017). "Being a teenage mother turned me into a stronger person, reveals Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  32. ^ "Electoral Office for Northern Ireland". eoni.org.ouk. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Geraldine Dougan
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid Ulster

2007–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Michelle Gildernew
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
2011–2016
Succeeded by
Michelle McIlveen
as Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Preceded by
Simon Hamilton
as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Minister of Health
2016–2017
Vacant
Office suspended
Preceded by
Mary Lou McDonald
Vice President of Sinn Féin
2018–present
Incumbent