If the individual can be the perfect metaphor for the movement, then Michelle O’Neill is in favor of Irish Republicanism. The next Prime Minister of Ulster (if the Unionists lift their boycott) epitomizes Sinn Féin’s transformation from a propaganda and political arm of a terrorist gang (IRA) into a political party that traded guns for ballot boxes and machine guns for oaths, and a quarter of a century later reaps the harvest.
At 45, she also represents a generational change in Ireland that has seen Sinn Féin, of which she is Vice President, become the party with the most votes (29%) and the most seats (27) in the Stormont Assembly and the main opposition in the Republic. . Michelle O’Neill was born and raised during the armed struggle to a brilliant Republican family south of the border in Counties Cork and Tyrone. His father, Brendan Doris, was a board member and member of the IRA, having served several terms in various prisons, including the famous Labyrinth (where Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike). His cousin Tony was killed in an ambush by the SAS (British Army Special Forces) in 1991, and another cousin, Gareth, was wounded in an attack on an army barracks in 1997 while the Good Friday agreements were being prepared.
A single mother at the age of 16 traded school for politics and took young children to rallies
It can be said that O’Neill (who took the surname of her ex-husband and father of two children and kept it after her divorce) breathed into her childhood, adolescence and youth the rarefied air of troubles, listening to countless conversations at home about the perversity and oppression of English colonialism, about how there were whether the bombing is an immoral or acceptable way to try to change history, about the legacy of partition and confrontation between Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, and about how to achieve the goal of reuniting the island.
The candidate for prime minister was not without personal problems, because at the age of sixteen she had a daughter (Saoirse), and being a single mother in the Catholic and devout Ireland of that time was not an easy task. The school she went to (Saint Patrick’s Academy for Girls) did their best to make her uncomfortable and dropped out. When she took the bar exam, she had such a big belly that the uniform didn’t fit her and she had to wear a dress, unfortunately she forgot her school bus pass, the driver didn’t want to let her in and she didn’t have money to pay for the ticket.
He finished high school the best he could and didn’t make any career. Coinciding with Saoirse’s birth, she entered politics, and was already fully involved when her son Ryan was born five years later. From a very young age, he took them to rallies, although he felt guilty for spending time with Sinn Féin at the expense of family life.
O’Neill began helping his father as a councillor, and in 1998, at the age of 21, supported the Good Friday Accords unreservedly, while many colleagues in the Republican movement were ambivalent and expressed doubts about the advisability of laying down arms. Her family name and reputation in County Tyrone helped her inherit the seat vacated by her father and become Dugannon’s first female mayor. In 2007, she was elected to the Stormont Assembly for Mid-Ulster with the support of Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin and Deputy Prime Minister of the province. As a nationalist and trade unionist, government portfolios are divided, she was minister of agriculture and health, a position in which she rejected the ban on homosexuals from donating blood.
His Republican credentials are undeniable, and he does not relinquish them. At his funeral, he carried the coffin with McGuinness’s body on his shoulders, and last year he attended the funeral of Robert Storey, another IRA veteran, knowing that the protesters would cry to heaven. But, although he belongs to the socialist left wing of Sinn Féin, he appeals to the centrist voters who will decide the future of Ireland, and during the election campaign he spoke not about reunification, but about the problem of rising costs of living, it is necessary to improve health care, education, transport and utilities.
His critics say he is a robot, the face of the party, simply echoing official policy. But if so, then he does it with such charm and charisma that he rose to the top. Moreover, he went down in history.
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