Mary Lou McDonald Biography and Profile , Ireland, Republic of Ireland Politician

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Mary Lou McDonald Early Life

Mary Lou McDonald was born in Dublin on May 1, 1969 and is the new president of Sinn Fein. Her father, Patrick, was a very successful surveyor, married to Joan. She has two brothers: Bernard, a scientist and Patrick, a patent lawyer. Her sister, Joanne, is a teacher. She was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, the University of Limerick and Dublin City University, studying English Literature, European Integration Studies and Human Resource management. After leaving university, the politician ran for the leadership unopposed and had served as deputy leader since February 2008. She has been a Member of Dáil Éireann, the equivalent of an MP, for Dublin Central since 2011 and had previously served as an MEP for the Dublin constituency from 2004 to 2009.

Mary Lou McDonald was previously a member of Fianna Fáil, another Irish republican party, although quit to join Sinn Fein in 1998. She first ran for public office back in 2002, unsuccessfully contesting the Dublin West seat, winning just eight per cent of the vote. She married her husband Martin Lanigan in 1996 and has two children. Raised in the affluent Rathgar area, she she has two brothers and a sister. She has previously said that she ‘completely understood and understand why people volunteered for the IRA’.

Mary Lou McDonald Biography and Profile

Mary Lou McDonald (Mary Louise McDonald) was born on 1 May 1969. Mary Lou McDonald a Leader of Sinn Féin and Teachta Dála for the Dublin Central constituency. Mary Lou is married to Martin and they have two young children, Iseult and Gerard. She is proud to represent the people of Dublin Central where she has a reputation for hard work and championing the needs of her constituency both locally and nationally.

Prior to becoming Leader of Sinn Féin in February 2018 Mary Lou was Deputy Leader of the party. Following her election to the Dáil in 2011 Mary Lou was Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform and on her re-election in 2016 Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland Spokesperson for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. She was a prominent member of the Public Accounts Committee between 2011 and 2017 holding Ministers and senior civil servants to account. She has also served on the Joint Oireachtas Committees for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Future of Mental Health.

She was an MEP for Dublin from 2004 to 2009 and during her time in the European Parliament Mary Lou was a prominent member of the Employment and Social Affairs committee and Civil Liberties committee.

In 2002, Mrs McDonald was Sinn Féin’s candidate in Dublin West, but failed to win a seat in the Dáil (Irish parliament). However, in 2004 she made history by becoming the party’s first MEP and in 2009 became the vice-president of Sinn Féin. Her role in Europe gave her a profile, and in 2011 she was elected as a member of the Dáil for Dublin Central.

Mrs McDonald’s style in the Dáil drew attention, as she became known for clashing with the larger parties. For their part, they have always said they will not work in government with Sinn Féin as coalition partners.

In 2019, Sinn Féin suffered setbacks across local government and European elections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – leading to questions about Mrs McDonald’s leadership. However, all those concerns seem to have disappeared in this election campaign, as the long-standing politician has seemed at home while out canvassing and opinion polls reported a dramatic rise in the party’s chances this time around – and the polls proved to be right.

Mary Lou McDonald Education

Mary Lou McDonald went to a private fee-paying school. Educated in Trinity College, Dublin, the University of Limerick and Dublin City University she studied English Literature, European Integration Studies and Human Resource Management. She previously worked as a consultant for the Irish Productivity Centre, a researcher for the Institute of European Affairs and a trainer in the trade union sponsored Partnership Unit of the Educational and Training Services Trust.

Mary Lou McDonald Political Career

‘Peace Negotiator’

McDonald’s own political awakening came aged 12, when the news was beamed into her living room that Republican hunger strikers who were demanding to be recognized as political prisoners in Belfast had begun to die. “I completely understood, and understand, why people volunteered for the IRA,” McDonald said in a 2013 documentary. “Was it necessary to take up arms against the British state in the north? I believe it was. I take no pleasure in saying that. I wish it had been different.”

Mary Lou McDonald’s ascension represents not just a generational transition within Sinn Féin — but a break with a past in which the party served as the political arm of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the paramilitary organization that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland through force. Unlike Adams, Sinn Féin’s new leader does not have to deny in interview after interview that she was a member of the IRA. Her prominence in the successful toppling of a constitutional ban on abortion earlier this year also helped broaden her profile as a politician, and showed her ability to work in coalition as she argued on the same side and worked in tandem with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and opposition party Fianna Fáil’s leader Micheál Martin.

She later joined the Irish National Congress, a fringe Republican group, but left and before long she joined Sinn Féin, becoming the party’s standard bearer in Dublin West, where she stood unsuccessfully for the party in the 2002 general election. In 2004, describing her occupation as a “peace negotiator”, she won a seat for the party in the European Parliament. The coming political party needed politicians, and McDonald was on the up.

But setbacks followed: in 2007 she failed to be elected to the Dáil and in 2009, she lost her European Parliament seat. But she did not lose faith, nor did the party lose faith in her. By now she was vice-president of the party, and openly speculated on as a future leader. She finally won a Dáil seat in 2011, comfortably retaining it in 2016.

By then she was more or less accepted as Adams’ successor, having demonstrated complete loyalty to the leader during the excruciating controversies involving sex abuse in the Republican movement, and in Adams own family.

Mary Lou McDonald Brexit

Sinn Féin was once the biggest critic of the European Union in Irish politics. Brexit has made the party into the EU’s passionate defender. McDonald sees no contradiction. Her main objections to the EU are to its economic policy — she believes members should have more leeway on spending — and to any moves to develop it as a military force. But the problem posed by Brexit is far more urgent: a threat to livelihoods, and potentially lives, as she sees it as being in contradiction to the Good Friday Agreement.

The peace deal states that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland can only be changed by democratic consent. McDonald argues that Brexit goes against this, as the majority in the region voted against it. In the case of a no-deal Brexit and the hardening of the border, McDonald says, Sinn Féin would demand a border poll immediately — something she has communicated to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“If the British system thinks that they’re going to inflict that level of jeopardy, damage, hardship and peril on our island and walk away, and expect all of us just to take it on the chin, I’m afraid they’re deeply misguided,” she says. “The British government is on notice.”

McDonald believes Brexit has put unification within reach — making a so-called border poll on the issue all but inevitable, as the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union unravels the delicate balance underpinning the status quo.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are heading towards constitutional change on the island,” she says. “I have a very strong sense of responsibility as the new leader of the party to steer and direct that as best I can, in a way that facilitates maximum consensus.”

Mary Lou McDonald IRA

Since Mary Lou McDonald was anointed as Sinn Féin president, and took over from Gerry Adams, she has sought to distance her party from criticism about its historic links to IRA violence. The surge in support for Sinn Féin over the course of the general election campaign may suggest her leadership has helped the party chart a new course. Mary Lou McDonald’s upbringing is very different from other leading Sinn Féin politicians.


there has been criticism of how her party has handled the controversy surrounding the murder of a County Armagh man in 2007. During RTÉ’s Prime Time leaders’ debate, Mrs McDonald was asked about comments made by the party’s Conor Murphy shortly after the killing, that Paul Quinn had been involved in “criminality and smuggling”. Mr Quinn’s family had called for Mr Murphy to retract the remarks and apologise publicly, something Mrs McDonald said he would do – but she said she would not ask him to step down from his current role as the Stormont finance minister.

Going into government in the Republic of Ireland would represent a huge step for the party – but also a new test for Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership.

Mary Lou McDonald Social Issues Stance

As Sinn Féin’s numbers have improved, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have repeated their opposition to the party being in government, arguing its past and its policies would be damaging. However, Mrs McDonald’s stance on social issues has drawn some new voters towards Sinn Féin. She was a vocal supporter of the campaign to overturn the ban on abortion in the Republic of Ireland, and later that year the party changed its policy to back abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There have, however, been moments since she took over as party president that have caused difficulties for Mrs McDonald.

In July 2018, she was accused of rowing back on party policy when she said a border poll should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remained. That was in stark contrast with Sinn Féin’s previous assertions that a referendum on a united Ireland cannot come soon enough.

Mary Lou McDonald Ready to Work With Anyone

McDonald has matured into the most prominent woman in Irish politics, universally known as “Mary Lou,” a commanding debater of wry, measured cadences who is instantly recognizable for her signature chestnut bob. She has declared herself ready to work with anyone, openly courting reluctant rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and overturning previous Sinn Féin policy against being a minority coalition partner.

“We’re a party that’s serious about reshaping and changing Ireland, and for that to happen we have to be in government. I am simply making a statement of what I think is the blindingly obvious. My politics has always been about two things: about Irish unity, ending partition, national freedom; and also about equality, ” Mary Lou McDonald.

Mary Lou McDonald Salary

SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has revealed the sum she pockets from her Dáil wages. In recent weeks she has refused to answer questions on how much she takes home from the €94,500 salary. Now she has said the annual after-tax sum she takes home is around €24,000 with the rest going on paying for the running of her two constituency offices.

Sinn Féin moved away from its tradition of elected representatives living on the ‘average industrial wage’ and contributing a portion of their salary to the party and constituency services after a 2016 review of the policy. Since then, its politicians have faced increasing questions over how much of their salaries they take home.

McDonald said:

“Within that people have different sets of circumstances and different outgoings and so on. In my case I take home €460-a-week. That’s somewhere in and around €24,000 net per annum. I’m saying that not because I’m looking for some credit or flowers to be thrown at me. You’ve asked the question and I’m answering it. That’s what I’m left with when I take account of my constituency offices.”

She said they’re “incredibly busy” and “expensive” to run.

McDonald said the important thing for Sinn Féin about its salary policy is that it’s “not a vehicle for people to get rich. It’s not really about being nosy about what people are taking home or how much money they have in their purse. “It’s a recommended wage. That’s been our position for the last number of years that we have the recommended wage.”

She said the party has not legal authority to enforce it.

“It is recommended and then of course we understand anything can happen in a person’s life in terms of family responsibilities, health considerations, kids at college… of course all of those things come into the balance.”

Mary Lou McDonald Family

Mary Lou is married to Martin and they have two young children, Iseult and Gerard.

Mary Lou McDonald Quotes

In the spring of 1981, when she was just 12 years old, Mary Lou McDonald was watching a news programme about the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland:

“Anyone of my generation who saw those images of the H-blocks beamed into their homes was changed. For me it was the precise moment that I, as a Dublin girl, realised how seriously wrong something was. I completely understood and understand why people volunteered for the IRA. I support and recognise the right to meet force with force. Do I understand why volunteers came forward; was it necessary to take up arms against the British state in the north? I believe it was, even though I take no pleasure in saying that.”

  • Mary Lou McDonald Biography and Profile
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