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Sinn Fein's new Stormont leader O'Neill 'is new generation of republicanism'

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill [Photos] Close

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at  Stormont on Monday.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.
Outgoing leader in the North  Martin McGuinness
Photograph by Presseye/Cameron  Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Outgoing leader in the North Martin McGuinness Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.Photograph by Presseye/Cameron  Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.
Photograph by Presseye/ Stephen Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Photograph by Presseye/ Stephen Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.
Outgoing leader in the North  Martin McGuinness
Photograph by Presseye/Cameron  Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Outgoing leader in the North Martin McGuinness Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.
Michelle pictured with Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams
Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Michelle pictured with Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north.
Photograph by Presseye/Cameron  Hamilton

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle ONeill pictured at Stormont as she is announced as the new leader of the party in the north. Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th May 2016 - 
New Sinn Fein minister Michelle O'Neill 
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th May 2016 - New Sinn Fein minister Michelle O'Neill Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams

G8 Summit ...Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -  Sunday 16th June 2013 - 
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Belfast International Airport this evening as G8 leaders from around the world begin to arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit.
Also pictured are Minister of State Mike Penning, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary  Katsunobu Kato and Ambassador of Japan to the United Kingdom.

G8 Summit ...Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 16th June 2013 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Belfast International Airport this evening as G8 leaders from around the world begin to arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit. Also pictured are Minister of State Mike Penning, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and Ambassador of Japan to the United Kingdom.

Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams at a SF conference on Irish Unity at Dublin's Mansion House. Sinn Fein/PA Wire

Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams at a SF conference on Irish Unity at Dublin's Mansion House. Sinn Fein/PA Wire

PA

Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Michelle O'Neill speaking during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. : PA Wire

Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Michelle O'Neill speaking during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. : PA Wire

PA

Michelle O'Neill talking to patients in her role as Health Minister

Michelle O'Neill talking to patients in her role as Health Minister

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - 
Michelle O'NeilL is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont 
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - Michelle O'NeilL is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

FILE PICTURE 4rd September  2015
Fatmers and producers from all sections of the food producing industry hold protest at Stormont regarding the ongoing crisis concerning the price of food.  Northern Ireland's Department of Rural Development Michelle O'Neill addresses the protest. 
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

FILE PICTURE 4rd September 2015 Fatmers and producers from all sections of the food producing industry hold protest at Stormont regarding the ongoing crisis concerning the price of food. Northern Ireland's Department of Rural Development Michelle O'Neill addresses the protest. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - 
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont with his new Minister Michelle O'Neill.
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 24th May 2016 - Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is pictured at Parliament Buildings, Stormont with his new Minister Michelle O'Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -  23rd December 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. 
Michelle O'Neill with other Sinn Fein leaders during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont after todays Northern Ireland talks concluded.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Michelle O'Neill with other Sinn Fein leaders during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont after todays Northern Ireland talks concluded.

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -  Monday 17th June 2013 - 
Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 17th June 2013 - Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye. Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama

Mandatory C - redit Darren Kidd/

FILE PICTURE Press Eye 30-07-2015
The Stormont agriculture and rural development committee is holding a special meeting at Stormont to discuss the dairy farming crisis in Northern Ireland.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has called for intervention at European level to tackle the problem.
Dairy farmers have warned they will go out of business if they do not receive higher prices for their milk.
Picture Colm O'Reilly 30-07-2015 Press Eye

FILE PICTURE Press Eye 30-07-2015 The Stormont agriculture and rural development committee is holding a special meeting at Stormont to discuss the dairy farming crisis in Northern Ireland. Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has called for intervention at European level to tackle the problem. Dairy farmers have warned they will go out of business if they do not receive higher prices for their milk. Picture Colm O'Reilly 30-07-2015 Press Eye

Then-Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill visits Enniskillen after the flood

Then-Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill visits Enniskillen after the flood

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -  Monday 17th June 2013 - 
Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama.

FILE PICTURE Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 17th June 2013 - Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye. Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill greet President Barack Obama as he arrives in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit in Enniskillen. Also pictured are Lord Lieutenant Joan Christie; Minister of State Mike Penning and Michelle Obama.

Mandatory C - redit Darren Kidd/

FILE PICTURE Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2011 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye.
Northern Ireland's main parties have announced the names of the ministers in the new NI Assembly.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

FILE PICTURE Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2011 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye. Northern Ireland's main parties have announced the names of the ministers in the new NI Assembly. Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

FILE PICTURE PRESS EYE LTD - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND -  1 DECEMBER  2007 -  Picture By Kelvin Boyes / Press Sinn Fein MLA for Mid Ulster Michelle O'Neill.

FILE PICTURE PRESS EYE LTD - BELFAST - NORTHERN IRELAND - 1 DECEMBER 2007 - Picture By Kelvin Boyes / Press Sinn Fein MLA for Mid Ulster Michelle O'Neill.

FILE PICTURE ©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland -  June 14 2014
Mandatory Credit -  Darren Kidd /Presseye.com
 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill, right,  at Armagh Show

FILE PICTURE ©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - June 14 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill, right, at Armagh Show

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show.
Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes Simmental "Gurteen Emperior" for a stroll at Saturday's Omagh Show.
Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes Simmental "Gurteen Emperior" for a stroll at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show.
Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

FILE PICTURE Presseye.com -6th July 2013 Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill takes at Saturday's Omagh Show. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

File Photo Last night Martin McGuinness retired from politics for health reasons. End. 16/9/2016. Day 2 Sinn Fein Think-In. Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, with Michelle O'Neill MLA and chair of the Stormond Health Committee on his left, leads the partys TD's, Senators, MLA's, MEP's and MP's into mornings Sinn Fein Think-In, in the City North Hotel, Gormanstown, County Meath. Photo: RollingNews.ie

File Photo Last night Martin McGuinness retired from politics for health reasons. End. 16/9/2016. Day 2 Sinn Fein Think-In. Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, with Michelle O'Neill MLA and chair of the Stormond Health Committee on his left, leads the partys TD's, Senators, MLA's, MEP's and MP's into mornings Sinn Fein Think-In, in the City North Hotel, Gormanstown, County Meath. Photo: RollingNews.ie

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Michelle O'Neill is announced as Sinn Fein's e new leader in the north by Senior Members Martin McGuinness , Gerry Adams and Mary McDonald at Stormont on Monday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The new Sinn Fein leader at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill, has been hailed as representing the new generation of republicanism.

The changing of the guard has seen her focus on mental health rather than the battles of yesteryear.

She said: "For me, when I was growing up in Tyrone as a teenager, if anyone had ever said to me that at some stage in the future you will be leading Sinn Fein in the north I probably would not have believed them."

She sought to raise awareness as minister for rural development by funding a suicide prevention officer in her Mid Ulster constituency.

She said: "I have no doubt that Niamh Louise Foundation's project will mean that for those who may suffer in silence, they will now have the opportunity to break that silence and find the help and support they need."

Friends say her rise to power aged just 40 has been marked by a passion for helping people.

She faces a challenge to rebuild political relations at Stormont and piece together the shattered powersharing coalition when she could become deputy first minister.

In the Assembly she announced - in characteristically quickfire fashion - that her party would not be renominating Martin McGuinness for the position.

"If we are to return to this chamber there must be real, meaningful change. There must be respect and equality for all sections of society."

The former agriculture minister, from Clonoe in Co Tyrone, has been a prominent voice articulating the party's position in recent weeks since Mr McGuinness became ill.

She has been involved in republican politics from her teens, has held various senior positions within Sinn Fein and has a background in social welfare issues.

She is a member of Sinn Fein's ruling Ard Chomhairle.

Mid Ulster MP and party colleague Francie Molloy watched her progress through local politics and said she had a thoughtful approach to dealing with people.

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Michelle O'Neill flanked by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams

Michelle O'Neill flanked by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams

Michelle O'Neill flanked by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams

"She is not one of these people who rushes into commentary on things, she would be a good listener and sit back and observe and take account of things, so she would not be a reactionary sort of person.

"She would certainly be more on the lines of consideration and looking at all the effects of it and looking at the good points of people as well as the issues."

Mrs O'Neill was elected to the devolved Assembly in 2007 following the restoration of powersharing after years of back-room work for Mr Molloy.

The mother-of-two was the first woman to hold the position of mayor on Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council and also one of the youngest.

While agriculture minister she decentralised government services from Belfast and won praise for efforts to boost rural development - although a DUP ministerial colleague won a court challenge against her bid to divert funds towards that area.

One of her first actions as health minister was to lift the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

She has also supported a cross-border cardiology service credited with saving the lives of 27 patients from Co Donegal in its first nine months.

Her father, Brendan "Basil" Doris, was a former IRA prisoner who became a Sinn Fein councillor in Dungannon.

Her uncle, Paul Doris, is president of Noraid, a republican fundraising group.

However, unlike Mr McGuinness or Gerry Kelly, she had no direct IRA involvement.