Michelle Gildernew
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Michelle Gildernew (born 28 March 1970) is an Irish
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
politician from
County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the thirty-two traditional Counties of Ireland, counties of Ireland, one of the six Counties of Northern Ireland, counties of Northern Ireland and one of the nine counties of Ulster. It is no longer used as an admin ...

County Tyrone
, Northern Ireland. She is the
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) ...
(MP) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, having been re-elected in June 2017 after previously holding the seat from 2001 to 2015. Gildernew is a former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the
Northern Ireland Executive The Northern Ireland Executive is the devolved Devolution is the statutory delegation of powers from the central government A central government is the government A government is the system or group of people governing a ...
. She was the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 2001 to 2015, and was a Member of the
Northern Ireland Assembly The Northern Ireland Assembly ( ga, Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster Scots: ''Norlin Airlan Assemblie'') often referred to by the metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase ...
(MLA) for the Assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone from June 1998 to July 2012. She was re-elected to the Assembly in 2016 and 2017. In 2017 reclaimed her Westminster seat from Tom Elliott of the
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the ...
. In 2019, she was re-elected with the smallest majority of any constituency in the UK, a margin of just 57 votes. Gildernew is Sinn Féin's health spokesperson, and has been a member of the party's '' Ard Chomhairle'' (National Executive). In the 2007–11 Assembly, she served as Vice Chair of the Committee of Social Development and was a member of the Committee of the centre, as well as other statutory and ad-hoc committees.


Education and background

Born in
Dungannon Dungannon () is a town in County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the thirty-two traditional Counties of Ireland, counties of Ireland, one of the six Counties of Northern Ireland, counties of Northern Ireland and one of the nine counties ...

Dungannon
, Gildernew attended St Catherine's College Armagh and later the
University of Ulster sco, Ulstèr Universitie , image = Ulster University coat of arms.png , caption = , motto_lang = , mottoeng = , latin_name = Universitas Ulidiae , established = 1865 – Magee College 1953 - Magee Un ...
,
Coleraine Coleraine ( ; from ga, Cúil Rathain , 'nook of the fern A fern (Polypodiopsida or Polypodiophyta ) is a member of a group of vascular plant Vascular plants (from Latin ''vasculum'': duct), also known as Tracheophyta (the tracheophy ...
. After graduating from university, she travelled extensively in Europe, the United States and Australia, where she worked for a year. Gildernew is one of ten siblings from an
Irish republican Irish republicanism ( ga, poblachtánachas Éireannach) is the political movement for the unity Unity may refer to: Buildings * Unity Building The Unity Building, in Oregon, Illinois, is a historic building in that city's Oregon Commercial H ...
family based at the "Gildernew farm complex" (as described on
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maps) in
County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the thirty-two traditional Counties of Ireland, counties of Ireland, one of the six Counties of Northern Ireland, counties of Northern Ireland and one of the nine counties of Ulster. It is no longer used as an admin ...

County Tyrone
. During the 1960s, the family were leading figures in the
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was an organisation that campaigned for civil rights in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Formed in Belfast on 9 April 1967,
and took part in a 1968 protest in
Caledon, County Tyrone Caledon () is a small village and townland (of 232 acres) in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is in the Clogher Valley on the banks of the River Blackwater, Northern Ireland, River Blackwater, 7 miles from Armagh. It lies in the southeast of ...
over housing discrimination.


Political career

On returning to Northern Ireland in 1996, Gildernew was the second-placed but unsuccessful candidate for
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
in the
Northern Ireland Forum The Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue was a body set up in 1996 as part of a process of negotiations that eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), or Belfast Agreement ( ga, Comhaontú A ...
elections for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The following year, she was appointed Sinn Féin representative to London and was part of the first Sinn Féin delegation to visit
Downing Street Downing Street is a long street in the City of Westminster The City of Westminster is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and London boroughs, borough in Inner London which forms a core part of Central London. It is the site of the ...

Downing Street
. In the 1998 Assembly elections, she was elected
MLA MLA may refer to: Organizations * ''The MLA Style Manual'', published by the Modern Language Association replaced by the MLA Handbook * Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association * Master Locksmiths Association, United Kingdom * Meat and Livestock ...
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, retaining the seat in the
2003 2003 was designated the International Year of the Fresh Water Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water containing low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids Total dissolved ...
and s. Gildernew has campaigned on women's and mothers' rights.


Election to Westminster

In the 2001 UK general election, Gildernew was elected to
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of ...
as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, defeating the
Ulster Unionist The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a Unionist (Ireland), unionist and Conservatism, conservative political party in Northern Ireland. Having gathered support in Ulster, the northern Provinces of Ireland, province in Ireland, during the late-nin ...
candidate James Cooper by 53 votes. She was the first female candidate elected from her party to the House of Commons in over 80 years since
Constance Markievicz Constance Georgine Markievicz ( pl, Markiewicz ; ' Gore-Booth; 4 February 1868 – 15 July 1927), also known as Countess Markievicz and Madame Markievicz, was an Irish politician A politician is a person active in party politics A pol ...
in
1918 This year is noted for the end of the First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed co ...
. Like all Sinn Féin MPs, she followed a policy of
abstentionism Abstentionism is standing for election to a deliberative assembly while refusing to take up any seats won or otherwise participate in the assembly's business. Abstentionism differs from an election boycott in that abstentionists participate in t ...
and never took her seat in Westminster in the five times she was elected at the polls. In the 2005 election, she was re-elected and increased her majority to 4,582 votes. In the 2010 election, the Democratic Unionist Party, Democratic Unionists (DUP), Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force, Ulster Conservatives and Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) all chose not to field candidates and she held her seat Fermanagh and South Tyrone (UK Parliament constituency)#Elections in the 2010s, by 4 votes against independent Unionist Rodney Connor. In October 2014, Sinn Féin announced that Gildernew would be the party's candidate in the 2015 Westminster election. She lost the seat by 530 votes to
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the ...
candidate Tom Elliott. According to the ''Times Guide to the House of Commons'', Gildernew was popular across the sectarian divide in one of Northern Ireland's most polarised constituencies. She won her seat back in 2017, beating Elliott by 875 votes. Elliott closed the gap to a mere 57 votes in 2019, making Fermanagh and South Tyrone the most marginal seat in the country.


Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development

During her time as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Gildernew dealt with problems such as an outbreak of bluetongue disease. She also increased cross-border co-operation with the Republic of Ireland on farming issues.


2011 Irish presidential election

In September 2011, the ''Belfast Telegraph'' reported that Sinn Féin was considering Gildernew as their candidate for 2011 Irish presidential election, that year's Irish presidential election. Sinn Féin would ultimately nominate Martin McGuinness for president.


Support for Seán Quinn

In a July 2012 interview for ''The Impartial Reporter'', Gildernew defended embattled businessman Seán Quinn, saying that "[h]e has been treated disgracefully by the Irish Government. Had they not tried to strip him of all his assets, including his home, deny him the ability to function in business, and routinely try to humiliate him I believe he would have paid back every penny he owed to the Irish taxpayer". Quinn, the former head of the privately owned Aventas group, QUINN group (now Aventas), was declared bankrupt in January 2012. (With Anglo Irish Bank#Loans to Sean Quinn & the Quinn Group, loans worth around €1.2 billion from the Anglo-Irish Bank, the QUINN group was exposed by its collapse and, on 30 March 2010, the High Court (Ireland), High Court appointed joint provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance Ltd.) Sinn Féin distanced themselves from Gildernew's comments made with Mary Lou McDonald that the Quinns had engaged in illegal business practices.


Personal life

Gildernew is married to Jimmy Taggart and is the mother of two boys, Emmet and Eunan, and one girl, Aoise.


References

, - , - , - , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Gildernew, Michelle 1970 births Alumni of Ulster University Female members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for Northern Irish constituencies Living people Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (since 1950) Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive (since 1999) Northern Ireland MLAs 1998–2003 Northern Ireland MLAs 2003–2007 Northern Ireland MLAs 2007–2011 Northern Ireland MLAs 2011–2016 Northern Ireland MLAs 2016–2017 Northern Ireland MLAs 2017–2022 People from Dungannon Sinn Féin MLAs Sinn Féin MPs (post-1921) Female members of the Northern Ireland Assembly UK MPs 2001–2005 UK MPs 2005–2010 UK MPs 2010–2015 UK MPs 2017–2019 UK MPs 2019–present Women ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive 20th-century women politicians from Northern Ireland 21st-century women politicians from Northern Ireland