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Michelle O'Neill
Michelle O'Neill (4 April 2022) (cropped).jpg
O'Neill in 2022
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Assumed office
3 February 2024
Preceded by Paul Givan (2022)
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
11 January 2020 – 4 February 2022
Serving with Arlene Foster & Paul Givan
Preceded by Martin McGuinness (2017)
Succeeded by Emma Little-Pengelly (2024)
Vice President of Sinn Féin
Assumed office
10 February 2018
President Mary Lou McDonald
Preceded by Mary Lou McDonald
Minister of Health
In office
25 May 2016 – 2 March 2017
Preceded by Simon Hamilton
(Health, Social Services and Public Safety)
Succeeded by Robin Swann
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
In office
5 May 2011 – 6 May 2016
Preceded by Michelle Gildernew
Succeeded by Michelle McIlveen
(Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs)
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
Michelle Doris

(1977-01-10) 10 January 1977 (age 47)
Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland
Political party Sinn Féin
Paddy O'Neill
(m. 1995; sep. 2014)
Children 2
O'Neill left the role of DFM when Arlene Foster resigned as FM on 14 June 2021. She was reappointed DFM alongside FM Paul Givan on 17 June 2021.

Michelle O'Neill (née Doris; born 10 January 1977) is an Irish politician, serving as the First Minister of Northern Ireland since February 2024. She had previously served in office as deputy First Minister from 2020 to 2022.

O'Neill served on the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council from 2005 to 2011. In 2007, she was elected to represent Mid Ulster in the Northern Ireland Assembly. She served as the first female Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone from 2010 to 2011. She has been serving as Vice President of Sinn Féin since 2018.

In 2011, she was appointed to the Northern Ireland Executive by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development. In 2016, she was promoted to Minister of Health. In January 2020, she became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland after the New Decade, New Approach agreement restored the power-sharing executive.

O'Neill automatically relinquished her office following Paul Givan's resignation as first minister on 3 February 2022. Sinn Féin became the largest party after the 2022 Assembly election, putting O'Neill in line for the position of First Minister of Northern Ireland; however she did not take up the position until two years later because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to nominate a deputy First Minister, citing its opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

On 3 February 2024, O'Neill was appointed First Minister of Northern Ireland. This marked the first time that an Irish nationalist has occupied the position of head of government in Northern Ireland.


O'Neill was born in Fermoy, a town in County Cork, Republic of Ireland. She comes from an Irish republican family in Clonoe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Her father Brendan Doris was a Provisional IRA prisoner and Sinn Féin councillor. Her uncle Paul Doris is a former national president of the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NORAID). A cousin, Tony Doris, was one of three IRA members killed in an ambush by the Special Air Service in 1991. Another cousin, IRA volunteer Gareth Malachy Doris, was shot and wounded during the 1997 Coalisland attack.

O'Neill attended St. Patrick's Girls' Academy, a Catholic grammar school in Dungannon, Tyrone. She subsequently began to train as an accounting technician, before pursuing a political career.

Political career

Early career

O'Neill became involved in republican politics in her teens, assisting her father with constituency work in his role as a Dungannon councillor. She joined Sinn Féin after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, at the age of 21, and started working as an advisor to Francie Molloy in the Northern Ireland Assembly. She kept this role until 2005, 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. O'Neill was elected as an MLA for Mid Ulster in the 2007 Assembly election, succeeding her Sinn Féin colleague Geraldine Dougan.

While a backbencher in the Assembly, she sat on Stormont's education and health committees. In 2010, she became Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone. O'Neill was the first woman to hold the position of Mayor, as well as one of the youngest people. She held the council position until 2011.

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development

O'Neill succeeded Michelle Gildernew as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Executive after the 2011 Assembly election. 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. The decision overruled an internal report on the matter, which recommended Strabane as a more appropriate location.

In December 2013, the High Court quashed a decision by O'Neill to reallocate 7% of Common Agricultural Policy funds to rural development projects that had been favoured by environmentalists. The court ruled that she was in breach of the Ministerial Code, having not sought the necessary permissions for the transfer from the Executive.

Minister of Health

O'Neill replaced the DUP's Simon Hamilton as Minister of Health following the 2016 election. On 25 October 2016, O'Neill unveiled a document titled Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together, a ten-year plan which is based on the findings of the Bengoa Report and aims to modernise the health and social care system.

Vice President of Sinn Féin

In January 2017, when Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy First Minister in protest against the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, and said that he would not stand in the resulting snap election, O'Neill was chosen as Sinn Féin's new "party leader in the North". The fact that she was favoured for the leadership ahead of former IRA member Conor Murphy marked a notable break in the leadership's direct association with the organisation.

In the 2017 Assembly election that followed McGuinness's resignation, O'Neill was returned to the Assembly, topping the poll in Mid Ulster and with a 20.6% share of first-preference votes. In March 2017, she called for a referendum on the reunification of Ireland "as soon as possible" in response to Brexit. O'Neill led the Sinn Féin side in the inter-party negotiations that followed the election, aiming to restore a power-sharing coalition in Northern Ireland, but said at the end of March that the talks had failed, and Sinn Féin would not nominate her for the position of deputy First Minister.

In February 2018, O'Neill became vice president of Sinn Féin, succeeding Mary Lou McDonald, who became president following the retirement of Gerry Adams. In November 2019 she faced a leadership challenge from John O'Dowd, winning with 67% of the vote.

Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

In January 2020, O'Neill was appointed deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. She automatically lost her position on 14 June 2021 when Arlene Foster resigned as First Minister, and regained it three days later when she and Paul Givan were nominated as deputy First Minister and Deputy First Minister respectively on 17 June 2021. In February 2022, O'Neill once again lost her position as deputy First Minister with the resignation of Paul Givan as First Minister.

First Minister of Northern Ireland

First Minister Humza Yousaf meets with First Minister of Northern Ireland designate Michelle O'Neill, 2023
O'Neill, as First Minister designate, meets with First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf, November 2023

Designate (2022–2024)

Following the 2022 Assembly election, Sinn Féin won the largest number of seats with 27 seats, becoming the largest political party in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Their unionist counterparts, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) came second with 25 seats. As a result of being the largest party, this put O'Neill in line to become the First Minister of Northern Ireland, and the DUP leader to become the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. However, O'Neill did not take up the position until February 2024 because, as part of its opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the DUP refused to nominate a deputy First minister and there was therefore no functioning executive of Northern Ireland.

In August 2022, O'Neill was asked in a BBC interview whether it was right during The Troubles for the Provisional IRA "to engage in violent resistance to British rule". O'Neill was criticised for her response, "I think at the time there was no alternative, but now thankfully we have an alternative to conflict, and that is the Good Friday Agreement – that is why it's so precious to us all."

In September 2022, O'Neill broke with Republican tradition to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

In May 2023, O'Neill attended the coronation of King Charles III, saying, "Well obviously I wanted to be here. We live in changing times and it was the respectful thing to do, to show respect and to be here for all those people at home, who I had said I would be a first minister for all. Attendance here is about honouring that and fulfilling my promise."

Under her leadership, Sinn Féin has led most NI opinion polls for the next UK general election.

First Minister (2024–present)

On 30 January 2024, with the Democratic Unionist Party announcing their return to power-sharing, O'Neill became the presumed First Minister of Northern Ireland. O'Neill assumed office on 3 February 2024, becoming the first ever Irish nationalist, republican or Catholic to hold the position. In her Stormont acceptance speech, she broke with republican tradition, by using the term "Northern Ireland".

Personal life

O'Neill became pregnant at the age of 15 and gave birth to her daughter when she was 16. She completed her A-levels studies at her Catholic grammar school and went on to train as a welfare rights adviser. She married Paddy O'Neill when she was 18 and they have two children together. She separated from her husband in 2014. O'Neill became a grandmother in 2023.

Electoral history

Northern Ireland Assembly elections

Year Constituency Party First-preference votes % Result
2022 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 10,845 21.0 Elected
2017 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 10,258 20.6 Elected
2016 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 6,147 15.1 Elected
2011 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 5,178 11.9 Elected
2007 Mid Ulster Sinn Féin 6,432 14.5 Elected

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Michelle O'Neill para niños

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