Michelle O'Neill, born Michelle Mary Doris on January 10, 1977 in Fermoy, County Cork (Ireland), is an Irish politician active in Northern Ireland, member of Sinn Féin. She has been the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland since January 2017 and served twice as Deputy Prime Minister from 2020 to 2022.
Youth and family
Michelle O'Neill comes from a working-class Catholic and Republican family committed to the reunification of Ireland. Her family was strongly marked by the conflict in Northern Ireland when she was still a child: her father was imprisoned, one of her uncles headed a committee responsible for raising funds for the Irish Republican Army (IRA ) in the United States and two of his cousins joined the IRA, one of whom was killed by British troops. In 1993, she was only 16 when she became pregnant and then gave birth to the first of her two children. Supported by her family, she did not give up her schooling and obtained her A-levels, equivalent to the baccalaureate.
She joined Sinn Féin in 1998, at the age of 21. She was elected to Dungannon City Council in 2005 and was Mayor from 2010 to 2011. She was elected Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the constituency of Mid Ulster in 2007. She became Minister of Agriculture for the Northern Ireland in 2011, then Minister of Health in 2016.
On January 23, 2017, Michelle O'Neill was elected to lead Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland to succeed Martin McGuinness following his resignation. Very close to the latter, she helped carry his coffin at his funeral the same year.
In 2019, at the Sinn Féin congress, she declared during her opening speech “The only solution to the chaos of Brexit is unification. The question is no longer if, but when the referendum on reunification will be held.”
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
On January 11, 2020, she was elected Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in a government bringing together the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and the Alliance. She is the first woman to hold this position. On June 17, 2021, she was reappointed alongside the new Prime Minister Paul Givan and remained in office until the latter's resignation on February 4, 2022.
2022 Legislative Elections
Sinn Féin wins the 2022 Northern Irish legislative elections with 29% of the " first preferences " (the electoral system organizes the transfer of votes according to an order given by the voters) and 25 of the 90 seats in the Assembly. More than the question of the reunification of Ireland, Michelle O'Neill campaigned on everyday issues affecting the population: the improvement of health services in Northern Ireland, the housing crisis and the cost of life, in a context of high inflation. To become the first minister of Northern Ireland, she says she wants to offer "inclusive leadership, which celebrates diversity, which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against or ignored in the past".
Notes and References
Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
Public Life Resources: Northern Ireland Assembly Democracy Club
UK Politics Portal Northern Ireland Portal