Recently named the new leader of Sinn Féin, Michelle O’Neill is now at the centre of the Irish-political landscape.
Formerly Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, O’Neill‘s appointment to the top seat marks something of a generational shift in the party.
Replacing long-standing leader Martin McGuinness, who has stepped down due to health reasons, O’Neill could potentially become Prime Minster or Deputy Prime Minister if Sinn Féin return to Stormont in March.
So, who is Michelle O’Neill? She was born in Clonoe, County Tyrone, into a Republican family. Her father, Brendan Doris, was an IRA prisoner and ex-Sinn Féin councillor. Her uncle was the President of the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID), and her cousin was killed by the SAS in Coagh in 1991.
According to biographies, written about O’Neill, she first became interested in politics during her teenage years, and joined her party when she was 20 years old. She was quickly elected to represent her area, and went on to become Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone in 2010 – making her one of the youngest ever Mayors and the first woman to hold the position.
On her election to the leadership of Sinn Féin, President Gerry Adams noted her as one of the next generation of young politicos set to move the country forward. “As a united all-Ireland team, we will give her the space and support to find her own voice and continue the good work Martin pioneered,” Adams is reported as saying, in The Guardian.
O’Neill’s Sinn Féin interview can be seen below: