Michelle Gildernew

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Michelle Gildernew
Michelle Gildernew.jpg
Gildernew in 2007
In office
8 May 2007 – 5 May 2011
Leader Gerry Adams
Preceded by Bríd Rodgers
Succeeded by Michelle O'Neill
In office
7 June 2001 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Ken Maginnis
Succeeded by Tom Elliott
In office
25 June 1998 – 7 July 2012
Preceded by none; position created
Succeeded by Bronwyn McGahan
Majority 7,026
Personal details
Born (1970-03-28) 28 March 1970 (age 45)
Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Jimmy Taggart
Alma mater University of Ulster
Website Michelle Gildernew MP

Michelle Gildernew (born 28 March 1970) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive. She was the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 2001 to 2015, and was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone between June 1998 and July 2012.[1]

Gildernew is Sinn Féin's health spokesperson and has been a member of the party's Ard Chomhairle (National Executive). In the 2007–11 Assembly, she served as Vice Chair of the Committee of Social Development and was a member of the Committee of the Centre as well as of other statutory and ad-hoc committees.[2]

Education and background[edit]

Born in Dungannon, Gildernew attended St Catherine's College Armagh and later the University of Ulster, Coleraine. After graduating from university, she travelled extensively in Europe, the United States and Australia, where she worked for a year. She is married to Jimmy and is the mother of two boys, Emmet and Eunan, and one girl, Aoise.

Gildernew is one of ten siblings from an Irish republican family based at the "Gildernew farm complex" (as described on Ordnance Survey maps) in County Tyrone.[2] During the 1960s, the family were leading figures in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and took part in a 1968 protest in Caledon, County Tyrone over housing discrimination.[3]

Political career[edit]

On returning to Northern Ireland in 1996, Gildernew was the second-placed but unsuccessful candidate for Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Forum elections for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.[4] The following year, she was appointed Sinn Féin representative to London and was part of the first Sinn Féin delegation to visit Downing Street. In the 1998 Assembly elections, she was elected MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, retaining the seat in the 2003 and 2007 elections.[5] Gildernew has campaigned on women's and mothers' rights.[6]

Election to Westminster[edit]

In the 2001 UK general election, Gildernew was elected to Parliament as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, defeating the Ulster Unionist candidate James Cooper by 53 votes. In the 2005 election, she was re-elected and increased her majority to 4,582 votes. In the 2010 election, the Democratic Unionists (DUP), Ulster Conservatives and Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) all chose not to field candidates and she held her seat by 4 votes against independent Unionist Rodney Connor.[7]

On Monday 20 October 2014 Sinn Féin announced that Michelle Gildernew would be the party's candidate in the 2015 Westminster election.[8] She lost the seat by 530 votes to Ulster Unionist Party candidate Tom Elliott despite almost no change in her percentage share of the vote and an increase in the number of her votes by 1,774 votes. Tom Elliott was the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate, and the DUP, TUV and UKIP all pulled out of the contest and supported Elliott. The Tory Party also refused to run a candidate. The SDLP ran in the constituency taking 2,732 votes, votes which may have helped Gildernew retain her seat.

Although Gildernew lost her seat in the 2015 election, her 23,078 votes gave her the second largest vote total in the 18 constituencies in the North.

According to the Times Guide to the House of Commons, Gildernew was popular across the sectarian divide in one of Northern Ireland's most polarised constituencies.[9] Like all Sinn Féin MPs, Gildernew followed a policy of abstentionism and did not take her seat in Westminster.

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development[edit]

During her time as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Gildernew dealt with problems such as an outbreak of bluetongue disease. She also increased cross-border co-operation with the Republic of Ireland on farming issues.[10]

2011 Irish presidential election[edit]

In September 2011, the Belfast Telegraph reported that Sinn Féin was considering Gildernew as their candidate for the that year's Irish presidential election.[11] In the event, Martin McGuinness stood for Sinn Féin.

Support for Seán Quinn[edit]

In a July 2012 interview for the The Impartial Reporter, Gildernew defended embattled businessman Seán Quinn, saying that "[h]e has been treated disgracefully by the Irish Government. Had they not tried to strip him of all his assets, including his home, deny him the ability to function in business, and routinely try to humiliate him I believe he would have paid back every penny he owed to the Irish taxpayer".[12] Quinn, the former head of the privately owned QUINN group (now Aventas), was declared bankrupt in January 2012.[13] (With loans worth around €1.2 billion from the Anglo-Irish Bank, the QUINN group was exposed by its collapse and, on 30 March 2010, the High Court appointed joint provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance Ltd.[14])

Sinn Féin distanced themselves from Gildernew's comments made with Mary Lou McDonald that the Quinns had engaged in illegal business practices.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Gildernew has stated that in addition to spending time with family and friends, she enjoys cooking and a wide range of outdoor activities.[citation needed] She is a member of the Aghaloo Gaelic Athletics Association club in County Tyrone. She is a speaker of the Irish language.


  1. ^ Dr Nicholas Whyte. "Fermanagh and South Tyrone 1998". Ark.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Féin: Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA". Fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  3. ^ http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/about-dard/minister-michelle-gildernew.htm
  4. ^ 1996 Forum Elections: Candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone at ark.ac.uk, accessed 1 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Profile of Minister Michelle Gildernew | Department of Agriculture". Dardni.gov.uk. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  6. ^ http://www.u.tv/Election2010/Candidate/Michelle-Gildernew/10/160
  7. ^ "Election 2010 | Fermanagh and South Tyrone". BBC News. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  8. ^ http://www.fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com/news/26301.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ The Times Guide to the House of Commons, Times Books, 2010.
  10. ^ "Consultations | Department of Agriculture and Rural Development". Dardni.gov.uk. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  11. ^ "Sinn Féin tipped to run Gildernew for Irish president". 
  12. ^ Edwards, Rodney (26 July 2012). "Sean Quinn: We are 'devastated' over son's jailing". The Impartial Reporter. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Keena, Colm (11 January 2012). "Quinn bankruptcy case set for Dublin court on Monday". Irish Times. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  14. ^ Maeve Sheehan (4 April 2010). "Industry captain's ill-fated voyage on the sinking ship". Independent.ie. Independent News & Media PLC [INM]. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Sinn Féin 'distances itself' from Sean Quinn". BBC News. 1 August 2012. 
Northern Ireland Assembly
New creation MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Succeeded by
Bronwyn McGahan
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ken Maginnis
Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Political offices
Preceded by
Office suspended
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
Succeeded by
Michelle O'Neill