Belfast Telegraph

Home News

Party's latest female face ticks right boxes but has to up game

By Suzanne Breen

Órfhlaith Begley is the latest in a line of young women who are becoming the public face of Sinn Fein.

The 26-year-old Carrickmore solicitor is certainly a fresh face in the ranks of middle-aged men who make up the bulk of Northern Ireland MPs.

But she wouldn't be the youngest elected representative in Parliament even if she did take her seat.

The current baby of the House of Commons is the SNP's Mhari Black, who was elected in 2015 when she was just 20.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP is one of the best-known backbenchers and has become a household name and a heroine of the left.

Sinn Fein's abstentionist policy, combined with Ms Begley's reserved political approach, means the new West Tyrone MP seems set to have a much lower-profile. Certainly, she is no Bernadette Devlin, who, aged 21, was elected to the House of Commons in 1969.

Even at that young age, she became known for her powerful and passionate oratory. Her politics were shaped on the streets.

Ms Devlin was repeatedly denied the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons on the day after Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

When Home Secretary Reginald Maudling said the paratroopers had fired in self-defence, Ms Devlin crossed the floor of the chamber and slapped him.

Asked by the media if she regretted the incident, she said: "I'm just sorry I didn't get him by the throat."

Sinn Fein will be relieved that Ms Begley's political style is more conventional.

Her media performances so far have not been strong, and her style has appeared robotic and wooden, even in delivering her victory speech at the count.

The new West Tyrone MP graduated from Queen's University Belfast with a degree in law and politics before studying at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. Until now, she has worked as a solicitor in Portadown with her brother. Sinn Fein describes her as "a passionate human rights advocate".

She is from a well-known Co Tyrone republican family. She has lived in Carrickmore all her life and is a member of the local Gaelic athletic club, for which she once played football.

She is a keen supporter of the local Eire Og hurling club.

Ms Begley has been actively involved in the Frank Ward/Joe McGarrity Sinn Fein cumann in the Carrickmore and Creggan area for many years.

Although this was her first time as a Sinn Fein candidate, she is no stranger to the campaign trail.

Her father, Sean, was a Sinn Fein councillor for 26 years and was previously the party's director of elections for West Tyrone.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph