Mary Lou McDonald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald (official portrait) 2020 (cropped).jpg
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
27 June 2020
PresidentMichael D. Higgins
TaoiseachMicheál Martin
Preceded byMicheál Martin
President of Sinn Féin
Assumed office
10 February 2018
Vice PresidentMichelle O'Neill
Preceded byGerry Adams
Vice President of Sinn Féin
In office
22 February 2009 – 10 February 2018
PresidentGerry Adams
Preceded byPat Doherty
Succeeded byMichelle O'Neill
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2011
ConstituencyDublin Central
Member of the European Parliament
In office
1 July 2004 – 20 June 2009
Personal details
Mary Louise McDonald

(1969-05-01) 1 May 1969 (age 51)
Churchtown, Dublin, Ireland
Political partySinn Féin
Martin Lanigan
(m. 1996)
Alma mater
WebsiteOfficial website

Mary Louise McDonald (born 1 May 1969) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has served as Leader of the Opposition in Ireland since June 2020 and President of Sinn Féin since February 2018. She has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin Central constituency since 2011. She previously served as Vice President of Sinn Féin from 2009 to 2018 and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency from 2004 to 2009.[1]

On 10 February 2018, McDonald succeeded longtime party leader Gerry Adams as President of Sinn Féin, following a special ardfheis (party conference) in Dublin.[2]

In the 2020 general election, Sinn Féin's performance improved significantly and it was the first time in almost a century that neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael won the most votes. Sinn Féin achieved 37 seats, one behind Fianna Fáil with 38 seats.[3] Following Micheál Martin's appointment as Taoiseach in June 2020, following the formation of a Fianna Fáil, Green Party and Fine Gael coalition, McDonald became Leader of the Opposition. She is the first female to hold that office and the first to come from a party other than Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael since the Labour Party’s Thomas Johnson in 1927.

Early life and education[edit]

Born into a middle-class family[4] in Dublin to builder and surveyor Patrick McDonald and housewife Joan, her parents separated when she was 9 years old and she stayed with her mother in Rathgar.[5] She has an elder brother Bernard and younger twin siblings Patrick and Joanne. Her sister Joanne had involvement with the socialist republican party Éirígí throughout the early 2000s and is a teacher.[6][7] Her brother Patrick works as an Intellectual Property lawyer and Bernard as a scientist.

McDonald was educated at the Catholic all-girls, Notre Dame Des Missions in Churchtown, South Dublin, where she was involved in debating.[8][9][10][11]

After school, McDonald attended Trinity College Dublin, from which she received a bachelor's degree in English Literature.[12] She later studied industrial relations at Dublin City University,[13] and also received a Master of Arts degree in European Integration Studies from the University of Limerick in 1995.[14] Her career to date has seen her involved in diverse roles, including consultant for the Irish Productivity Centre, researcher for the Institute of European Affairs, (a think-tank run by then Labour TD Brendan Halligan)[11] and trainer in the Partnership Unit of the Educational and Training Services Trust.[15]

McDonald became involved with the Irish National Congress, a cross-party republican organisation, and became chairperson in 2000, leading a protest in Dublin against the involvement of the city's Lord Mayor in the unveiling of a plaque at the location where the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland held its first meeting in 1798.[16]

Political career[edit]

European Parliament and early Dáil attempts[edit]

McDonald has been a member of the Sinn Féin party leadership since 2001.[17] McDonald first ran for office when she unsuccessfully contested the Dublin West constituency for Sinn Féin at the 2002 general election, polling 8.02% of first preference votes.

In September 2003, McDonald attracted criticism when she spoke at a rally in Dublin to commemorate Seán Russell, an IRA leader with links to Nazi Germany.[18][19][20]

In 2004, McDonald became Sinn Féin's first MEP in Ireland, when she was elected at the 2004 European Parliament election for the Dublin constituency, receiving over 60,000 first preference votes.[21] She served as one of two Sinn Féin MEPs, the other being Bairbre de Brún who was representing Northern Ireland. In 2007, she was shortlisted for the 'MEP of the Year' award by the European Parliament magazine watching for "making the most valuable contribution in the field of employment policy".[22] During her time in office she led the Sinn Féin campaign against the Treaty of Lisbon, which was rejected in the Republic in 2008. McDonald sat as a member of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and as a substitute of the Civil Liberties Committee.

She was an unsuccessful candidate in the Dublin Central constituency at the 2007 general election.

McDonald became Sinn Féin Vice President, replacing Pat Doherty, following the Sinn Féin ardfheis of 22 February 2009.

For the 2009 European Parliament election, the number of seats for Dublin in the European Parliament was reduced from four to three. McDonald was in a tight race for the last seat against Fianna Fáil's Eoin Ryan and the Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins. McDonald lost her seat to Higgins, being eliminated at the fifth count. Her first preference vote had declined to nearly 48,000.[23]

In June 2009, McDonald faced criticism after it emerged her campaign office was selling IRA souvenirs and memorabilia.[24][25]

Dáil Éireann (2011–present)[edit]

McDonald contested the Dublin Central constituency again at the 2011 general election, this time picking up 13.1% of first preference votes; she was successful in taking the last seat in the constituency. Following the election she became Sinn Féin's Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform[26] and was a member of the Public Accounts Committee from then until 2017.[26]

In 2012, McDonald was awarded 'Opposition Politician of the Year' by TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne political talk show.[27]

In November 2014, McDonald refused to leave the Dáil chamber despite a vote suspending her, after she had questioned Tánaiste Joan Burton on if the government would allow payments to be taken from citizen's wages or social welfare payments if they did not comply with the payment of newly introduced water charges. McDonald argued Burton failed to directly answer her questions and was being deliberately evasive and intractable. Her decision not to leave the chamber was in protest of Burton's refusal to answer her questions. She, along with a number of Sinn Féin colleagues, remained in the chamber for four and a half hours. In response the Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett adjourned the Dáil for a number of days.[28][29]

In December 2015, McDonald initially backed Thomas "Slab" Murphy, who she described as a "good republican" despite him having been convicted on nine charges of tax evasion, following a trial held in the Special Criminal Court after the last person to testify against Murphy in a court was bludgeoned to death after a 1999 court case in Dublin.[30][31] She later failed to back party leader Gerry Adams' assertion that Thomas Murphy is a "good republican" after a BBC Spotlight investigation accused Murphy of being a "mass murderer".[32]

After her re-election to the Dáil in 2016 general election, in which she topped the poll in Dublin Central, she became Sinn Féin's All-Ireland Spokesperson for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which she held until being elected president of Sinn Féin in 2018.[26][33]

Leader of Sinn Féin (2018–present)[edit]

At a Sinn Féin party conference on 18 November 2017, Gerry Adams was re-elected party leader, but announced that he would ask the Sinn Féin party leadership to call for a special Ard Fheis to be held within three months to choose a new president, and that he would not stand for re-election as TD for the Louth constituency in the next election.[34]

At the close of nominations to succeed Adams on 20 January 2018, McDonald was announced as the President-elect of Sinn Féin, as she was the sole nominee to enter the race. She was confirmed as president at a special Ard Fheis on 10 February 2018 in Dublin.[2]

In March 2019, McDonald was criticised by some, including Fine Gael politician Simon Coveney, for walking behind a banner in the New York City St. Patrick's day parade which read "England Get Out of Ireland".[35] The banner itself had been a part of the parade since 1948,[36] however, the appropriateness of its message was questioned in a post-Good Friday Agreement era. In the immediate aftermath of the incident support for Sinn Féin in opinion polls dropped from 18% to 13%, with McDonald apologising for her actions shortly afterwards, but stated she believed the message to be directed at the British state, not the English people.[37]

Shortly afterwards on 24 May 2019, the 2019 European Parliament election in Ireland and 2019 Irish local elections were held simultaneously. In the European elections, Sinn Féin lost 2 MEPs and dropped their vote share by 7.8%, while in the local elections the party lost 78 (almost half) of their local councillors and dropped their vote share by 5.7%. The result was considered "disastrous" for Sinn Féin. McDonald stated "It was a really bad day out for us. But sometimes that happens in politics, and it’s a test for you. I mean it’s a test for me personally, obviously, as the leader".[38]

However, at the 2020 general election, the party rebounded and attained 24.5% of the first preference votes, placing them ahead of Fine Gael by 3.6% and Fianna Fáil by 2.3%. It was the best general election result in the modern history of Sinn Féin.[39][40] McDonald touted the party's electoral success as a "revolution" and expressed her desire to form a coalition government, declaring that Ireland "is no longer a two-party system".[41] Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy credited McDonald's leadership and her ability to clarify Sinn Féin's policies to the electorate with contributing to the stark turn around between the May elections of 2019 and the general election result of 2020.[38] MacDonald's high satisfaction rating as party leader was also cited by others as another contributing factor in Sinn Féin's result.[38]

Leader of the Opposition (2020–present)[edit]

On 26 June 2020, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party formed a coalition government, leaving Sinn Féin as the largest opposition party, and McDonald as Leader of the Opposition. She dismissed the coalition agreement as a "marriage of convenience", and accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of conspiring to exclude Sinn Féin from government.[42]

Personal life[edit]

McDonald's husband, Martin Lanigan works as a gas control superintendent for the emergency dispatch division of Gas Networks Ireland, a state infrastructure provider, and the couple currently live with their two teenage children in Cabra, North Dublin.[43]


McDonald has asthma.[44]

In April 2020, she announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19 following a test she took on 28 March.[45] In a statement she said that she had recovered from the condition but had developed pleurisy in her right lung.[45] She said that the Public Health Doctor had told her that she was no longer infected or infectious.[45][45]


  1. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Mary Lou McDonald confirmed as new leader of Sinn Féin". The Irish Times. 20 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Is Sinn Fein now a normal political party?". The Economist. 7 March 2020.
  5. ^ "How Shinner babe Mary Lou came to the aid of the party". 19 June 2004. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald – private-school educated opponent of Dublin Orange parade". 23 January 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  7. ^ "'Rise up and Reclaim the Republic' says new group". 21 June 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  8. ^ "TDs who went to private schools split over cuts". Irish Independent. 2 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Tanaiste takes swipe at Mary Lou McDonald's private school education". independent. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald '" private-school educated opponent of Dublin Orange parade". Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Profile: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald". 9 February 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Grace, Aisling (10 February 2018). "Trinity alumna Mary Lou McDonald elected leader of Sinn Fein". Trinity News. Dublin, Ireland.
  13. ^ "Profile: Mary Lou McDonald: Shopaholic Trinity girl is face of new Sinn Fein". The Times. London, England. 20 June 2004. ...studying industrial relations at Dublin City University...
  14. ^ University of Limerick. "My Favourite Place - Juliette Gash & Mary Lou McDonald". UL Links. Limerick, Ireland. Archived from the original on 2 November 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  15. ^ Sinn Fein Press Office (11 March 2003). "Campaign begins to return Sinn Fein MEP for Dublin: McDonald selected as Dublin EU candidate". Sinn Dublin, Ireland.
  16. ^ Deaglán de Bréadún: Mary Lou McDonald's leadership could mark a turning point for republicanism, Irish News, 1 January 2018
  17. ^ "MEP profile". European Parliament. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  18. ^ Cusack, Jim (6 June 2004). "SF's Nazi hero is stalking candidate Mary Lou". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2008. SINN FEIN'S Mary Lou McDonald has been accused of "warped principles" for participating in a republican commemoration ceremony last year for a Nazi collaborator while standing as a candidate for the European Parliament.
  19. ^ McDonald, Henry (16 January 2005). "This dastardly plot". The Observer. London. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  20. ^ Colgan, Paul; Callanan, Neil. "Profile: Prime time Shinner". The Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 19 October 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. She encountered criticism after speaking at a commemoration for IRA volunteer Sean Russell last year.
  21. ^ "EU elections 2004 results – Dublin". Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  22. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald shortlisted for MEP of the Year Award - An Phoblacht".
  23. ^ "Ryan loses out to Higgins in Dublin". RTÉ News. 8 June 2008. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2008.
  24. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (2 June 2009). "IRA souvenirs sell well in McDonald HQ". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Sinn Fein VP Mary Lou Mcdonald slammed for allowing sale of IRA souvenirs". Irish Central. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Mary Lou McDonald TD. Sinn Féin - Dublin Central. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  27. ^ Croffey, Amy. "Vincent Browne announces his 2012 Political Awards".
  28. ^ "Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald refuses to leave the Dail – despite being suspended". Irish Independent. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  29. ^ O'Regan, Michael (13 November 2014). "Dáil adjourned until Tuesday after Mary Lou McDonald sit-in". Irish Times. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  30. ^ Moriarty, Gerry (20 December 2015). "Gerry Adams had little choice but to stand by 'Slab' Murphy". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  31. ^ O'Connor, Niall; Doyle, Kevin; Cusack, Jim (22 December 2015). "Now Mary Lou backs 'good republican' Slab". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  32. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (5 February 2016). "Mary Lou McDonald stays silent on support for Thomas 'Slab' Murphy". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  33. ^ Mental health service failing those at risk of suicide – McDonald. Sinn Féin (official website). Published 21 July 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  34. ^ Doyle, Kevin (18 November 2017). "Gerry Adams to step down as Sinn Féin leader in 2018". Irish Independent. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  35. ^ "SF leader condemned for marching with 'offensive' sign". RTÉ.ie. 17 March 2019.
  36. ^ O'Dowd, Niall (18 March 2019). "Why "England Get Out of Ireland" banner belongs in New York Parade". Irish Central. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  37. ^ Kinsella, Rudi (April 2019). "Mary Lou McDonald says 'England get out of Ireland' St Patrick's Day banner was not directed at English people". Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  38. ^ a b c Ní Aodha, Gráinne (12 February 2020). "How did they do it? Sinn Féin's historic 24% win was built on learnt lessons and a fed-up electorate". Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  39. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald: 'I may well be the next Taoiseach". The Journal. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  40. ^ McCormack, Jayne (11 February 2020). "Who will be the next Irish prime minister?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  41. ^ Carroll, Rory (9 February 2020). "Sinn Féin to try to form ruling coalition after Irish election success". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  42. ^ "Micheál Martin becomes new Irish PM after historic coalition deal". BBC News. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  43. ^ "Mary Lou McDonald's husband in line for gas firm payout". 26 April 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  44. ^ Moore, Aoife (20 April 2020). "Coronavirus: Mary Lou McDonald describes 'distressing' 16-day wait for test results". Irish Examiner.
  45. ^ a b c d Hosford, Paul (14 April 2020). "Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tests positive for Covid-19". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 14 April 2020.

External links[edit]

European Parliament
Preceded by
Patricia McKenna
Green Party
Member of the European Parliament
for Dublin

Succeeded by
Joe Higgins
Socialist Party
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mitchel McLaughlin
Chair of Sinn Féin
Succeeded by
Declan Kearney
Preceded by
Pat Doherty
Vice President of Sinn Féin
Succeeded by
Michelle O'Neill
Preceded by
Gerry Adams
President of Sinn Féin
Political offices
Preceded by
Micheál Martin
Leader of the Opposition
Preceded by
Cyprian Brady
Fianna Fáil
Sinn Féin Teachta Dála
for Dublin Central