La cara de la nueva Ireland, Michelle O

If a person can be the perfect metaphor for a movement, Michelle O'Neill is for Irish republicanism.

La cara de la nueva Ireland, Michelle O

If a person can be the perfect metaphor for a movement, Michelle O'Neill is for Irish republicanism. Ulster's next Prime Minister (if the Unionists lift their boycott) epitomizes Sinn Féin's transformation from a propaganda and political arm of a terrorist gang (the IRA) to a political party that traded guns for ballot boxes and machine guns for vows, and a quarter of a century later reaps the harvest.

At 45, she also represents the generational change in Ireland that has made Sinn Féin -of which she is vice-president- 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 times of the armed struggle in a family of unbeatable republican pedigree south of the border, in the counties of Cork and Tyrone. Her father, Brendan Doris, was a councilman and member of the IRA, serving several sentences in various prisons, including the famous Maze (where Bobby Sands carried out his hunger strike). Her cousin Tony de Ella was killed in an SAS (British Army Special Forces) ambush in 1991, and another cousin, Gareth, was wounded in an attack on an army barracks in 1997, when the deals were in the making. of Good Friday.

It can be said that O'Neill (who took the last name of her ex-husband and father of her two children and has kept it after separating), breathed in her childhood, adolescence and youth the rarefied air of troubles, listening to innumerable conversations at home about the perversity and oppression of English colonialism, about whether bombing was immoral or an acceptable way of trying to change history, about the legacy of partition and the confrontation between Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, and how to achieve the goal of reunification of the island.

The prime ministerial candidate was not without her own personal problems, for at the age of sixteen she had her daughter (Saoirse), and being a single mother in the Catholic and pious Ireland of that time was not an easy thing. The school she went to (St. Patrick's Academy for Girls) did everything they could to make her feel uncomfortable and drop out. When she took the bar exam, she had so much belly that the uniform did not fit her and she had to wear a dress, with the bad luck that she forgot the school bus pass, the driver did not want to let her get on, and she did not have money to pay a ticket.

He finished high school as best he could and did not do any career. Coinciding with the birth of Saoirse, she got into politics, and she was already fully involved when her son Ryan came into the world five years later. When they were very young she would take them to rallies, although she felt guilty about spending time with Sinn Féin at the expense of family life.

O’Neill began helping his father as a councilman, and in 1998, at the age of 21, he unreservedly backed the Good Friday agreements, while many colleagues in the Republican movement were ambivalent and expressed doubts about the advisability of laying down their arms. Her family's name and reputation in County Tyrone helped her inherit her seat vacated by her father, and become Dugannon's first female mayor. In 2007 she was elected to the Stormont Assembly for Mid Ulster, being mentored by Martin McGuinness, then Sinn Féin's number two and deputy premier of the province. As nationalists and unionists share the portfolios in the Government, she was Minister of Agriculture and Health, a position in which she repelled the ban on homosexuals donating blood.

His Republican credentials are undeniable and he does not give them up. He carried McGuinness's coffin on his shoulders at his funeral, and last year he attended the funeral of Robert Storey, another IRA veteran, knowing that the protesters were going to raise hell. But, although he comes from the socialist left wing of Sinn Féin, he appeals to the centrist voters who will decide the future of Ireland, and during the campaign he did not speak of reunification but of the problem of the rising cost of living, the need to improve healthcare , education, transportation and public services.

His critics say he is a robot, the face of the party, merely parroting official policy. But if so, he does it with such charm and charisma that he has risen to the top. Not only that, but he has made history.


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