Michelle O’Neill to lead Sinn Féin at Stormont

24 Jan 17

Sinn Féin have appointed Michelle O’Neill to lead the party in Northern Ireland, filling the gap left by Martin McGuinness who stepped down a fortnight ago.

O’Neill is currently minister for health in the NI Executive. She will lead the party as the country goes to the polls on 2 March to elect a new Assembly.

McGuinness resigned in protest over the botched administration of a renewable energy scheme and later confirmed he had retired from politics altogether, citing health reasons. 

As leader of Sinn Féin at Stormont, McGuinness held the position of Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister. His departure caused the power-sharing agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party to collapse, triggering fresh elections.

O’Neill, who was widely tipped to assume the party’s leadership, hails from County Tyrone and is currently assembly member for the constituency of Mid-Ulster. Before she was health minister, she held the agriculture portfolio.

According to Sinn Féin, O’Neill is a “formidable campaigner” who has championed issues of equality, autism, disability, mental health and the rights of rural dwellers.

O’Neill said it was a “huge honour” and a “privilege” to be chosen to lead the party in Northern Ireland and follow in the footsteps of McGuinness who she described as a “political giant”.

She described herself as a republican and said she wanted to continue the work that McGuinness had started. She added that “as a republican… the Ireland we see obviously has a place for everybody.”

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