Michelle O'Neill

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Michelle O'Neill
MLA
Michelle O'Neill Jan 2017 (cropped).jpg
Leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland
Assumed office
23 January 2017
Leader Gerry Adams
Preceded by Martin McGuinness
Minister of Health
In office
25 May 2016 – 2 March 2017
Preceded by Simon Hamilton
Succeeded by Vacant
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
In office
5 May 2011 – 6 May 2016
First Minister Peter Robinson
Arlene Foster
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Michelle Gildernew
Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone
In office
June 2010 – June 2011
Preceded by Francie Molloy
Succeeded by Kenneth Reid
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid Ulster
Assumed office
7 March 2007
Preceded by Geraldine Dougan
Personal details
Born Michelle Doris
(1977-01-10) 10 January 1977 (age 40)
Clonoe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Paddy O'Neil
Children 2
Website Michelle O'Neill MLA

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

Background[edit]

O'Neill comes from an Irish republican family in Clonoe, County Tyrone. 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 which had been favoured by environmentalists.[17] The court ruled that she was in breach of 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]

Leader of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly[edit]

O'Neill replaced Martin McGuinness as Sinn Féin's leader in the Northern Ireland Assembly

On 23 January 2017, it was announced that O'Neill would replace Martin McGuinness as Sinn Féin's leader in the Northern Ireland Assembly.[2] McGuinness had resigned from the position and vacated the Executive Office in protest of Arlene Foster's handling of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal. O'Neill was appointed in favour of former Provisional IRA member Conor Murphy, marking a notable break in the leadership's direct association with the organisation.[20][21][22] Sinn Féin delayed the nomination of O'Neill as McGuinness's replacement, triggering an snap election.[23][24]

In the 2017 election, O'Neill topped the polls in Mid Ulster and was returned to the Assembly with a 20.6% share of the constituency's first-preference votes.[25][26] On 13 March 2017, she issued a statement calling for a referendum on Irish unity "as soon as possible" in response to the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union.[27] On 26 March, O'Neill stated that inter-party negotiations aiming to restore a power-sharing coalition in Northern Ireland had failed, and thus Sinn Féin would not nominate her for the position of deputy First Minister.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

O'Neill and her husband, Paddy, have two adult children: daughter Saoirse and son Ryan.[11][10]

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[30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "New northern Sinn Féin leader tells both governments to step up to the plate". 23 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "We stand for equality, respect and integrity – O'Neill". www.sinnfein.ie. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Michelle O'Neill takes over as new Sinn Féin leader in North". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  4. ^ Mid Ulster, ARK.ac.uk; accessed 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ "The Northern Ireland Assembly". Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  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. 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 McDonald, Henry (23 January 2017). "Michelle O'Neill: new Sinn Féin leader marks republican sea change". The Guardian. 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. 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. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c "Mid Ulster – Michelle O'Neill profile". Sinn Féin. 
  13. ^ Young, Connla. "Who is Michelle O'Neill?". The Irish News. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  14. ^ "Sinn Fein lady Mayor in Dungannon". Tyrone Times. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  15. ^ "Michelle new Agriculture Minister". Tyrone Times. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2017. 
  16. ^ "Department of Agriculture's Ballykelly HQ plans unveiled". BBC News. 2015-04-30. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  17. ^ a b Simpson, Mark (2013-12-30). "Michelle O'Neill will not challenge legal judgement". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  18. ^ correspondent, Henry McDonald Ireland (2016-06-02). "Northern Ireland to lift ban on gay men donating blood". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  19. ^ "O'Neill launches 10 year vision for Health & Social Care". Health. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  20. ^ correspondent, Henry McDonald Ireland (2017-01-23). "Michelle O'Neill: new Sinn Féin leader marks republican sea change". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  21. ^ "Subscribe to read". www.ft.com. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  22. ^ McKeown, Gareth. "Michelle O'Neill set to be named new Sinn Féin leader at Stormont". The Irish News. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  23. ^ "Subscribe to read". www.ft.com. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  24. ^ correspondent, Henry McDonald Ireland (2017-01-23). "Sinn Féin names Michelle O'Neill as new leader in Northern Ireland". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  25. ^ "Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill tops poll in Mid Ulster". ITV News. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  26. ^ "NI Assembly Election 2017 Result Sheet – Mid Ulster (XLS)". The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland – EONI. 
  27. ^ "Michelle O'Neill calls for 'urgent' referendum on Irish unity". BBC News. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  28. ^ "NI political talks have run their course, says Sinn Fein". BBC News. 2017-03-26. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  29. ^ correspondent, Henry McDonald Ireland (2017-03-26). "Northern Ireland power-sharing talks break down". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-29. 
  30. ^ "Electoral Office for Northern Ireland". eoni.org.ouk. 

External links[edit]

Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Geraldine Dougan
MLA for Mid-Ulster
2007–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Michelle Gildernew
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
2011–2016
Succeeded by
Michelle McIlveen
Preceded by
Simon Hamilton
as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Minister of Health
2016–2017
Vacant
Office suspended