|Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland|
11 January 2020
Serving with Arlene Foster
|Vice President of Sinn Féin|
10 February 2018
|President||Mary Lou McDonald|
|Mary Lou McDonald|
|Minister of Health|
25 May 2016 - 2 March 2017
|Deputy First Minister||Martin McGuinness|
|Simon Hamilton (Health, Social Services and Public Safety)|
|Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development|
5 May 2011 - 6 May 2016
|Deputy First Minister||Martin McGuinness|
|Michelle McIlveen (Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs)|
|Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone|
June 2010 - June 2011
|Member of the Legislative Assembly|
for Mid Ulster
7 March 2007
10 January 1977
Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland
|Political party||Sinn Féin|
(m. 1995; separated 2014)
Michelle O'Neill (née Doris; born 10 January 1977) is an Irish politician serving as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland since 2020. She has served as Vice President of Sinn Féin since 2018 and has been the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Mid Ulster since 2007.
In the Northern Ireland Executive, she previously served under deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2016 and Minister of Health from 2016 to 2017.
O'Neill comes from an Irish republican family in Clonoe, County Tyrone. She was born in Fermoy, County Cork. 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 shot dead by the SAS in 1991. Another cousin, IRA volunteer Gareth Malachy Doris, was shot and wounded during the 1997 Coalisland attack.
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".
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.
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.
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. 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.
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".[note 1] 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 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 the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union. 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.
Northern Ireland Assembly elections
|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|
|Northern Ireland Assembly|
| Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid Ulster
| Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
as Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
| Minister of Health
Mary Lou McDonald
| Vice President of Sinn Féin
| Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland