Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Louise McDonald (born 1 May 1969) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has served as the Leader of Sinn Féin since February 2018. She has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin Central constituency since the 2011 general election. She previously served as Deputy Leader of Sinn Féin from 2009 to 2018 and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency from 2004 to 2009.[1]

Mary Lou McDonald

Leader of Sinn Féin
Assumed office
10 February 2018
DeputyMichelle O'Neill
Preceded byGerry Adams
Deputy Leader of Sinn Féin
In office
22 February 2009  10 February 2018
LeaderGerry Adams
Preceded byPat Doherty
Succeeded byMichelle O'Neill
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2011
ConstituencyDublin Central
Member of the European Parliament
In office
1 July 2004  20 June 2009
Personal details
Mary Louise McDonald

(1969-05-01) 1 May 1969
Churchtown, Dublin, Ireland
Political partySinn Féin (since 1998)
Other political
Fianna Fáil (before 1998)
Martin Lanigan (m. 1996)
Alma mater
WebsiteOfficial website

On 10 February 2018, McDonald succeeded longtime party leader Gerry Adams after a special ardfheis (party conference) in Dublin.[2] To date, the party under her leadership has stood in two major elections; the 2019 European Parliament election in Ireland, where the party lost 2 MEPs and dropped their vote share by 7.8% and the 2019 Irish local elections, where the party lost 78 (almost half) of their local councillors and dropped their vote share by 5.68%.


Born in Dublin, McDonald was educated at Notre Dame Des Missions in Churchtown,[3] Trinity College, Dublin, the University of Limerick and Dublin City University, studying English Literature, European Integration Studies and Human Resource Management.[4] Her career to date has seen her involved in diverse roles, including consultant for the Irish Productivity Centre, researcher for the Institute of European Affairs, and trainer in the Partnership Unit of the Educational and Training Services Trust.[4]

While she attended some Fianna Fáil meetings, she did not join the party, instead joining the Irish National Congress, a cross-party republican organisation.[5] She later became chairperson in 2000, leading a protest in Dublin against the involvement of the city's Lord Mayor in the unveiling of a plaque at where the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland held its first meeting in 1798.[6]

Dáil Éireann

McDonald first ran for office when she unsuccessfully contested the Dublin West constituency for Sinn Féin at the 2002 general election, polling 8.02% of first preference votes. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the Dublin Central constituency at the 2007 general election.

She contested the Dublin Central constituency again at the 2011 general election, this time picking up 13.1% of first preference votes; she was successful in taking the last seat in the constituency. She was re-elected in the 2016 general election topping the poll and taking the first seat in the Dublin Central constituency. She was a member of the Public Accounts Committee between 2011 and 2017.[7]

In November 2014, McDonald refused to leave the Dáil chamber despite a vote suspending her, after she had repeatedly questioned Tánaiste Joan Burton on water charges.[8]

European Parliament

In 2004, McDonald became Sinn Féin's first Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the Republic of Ireland when she was elected at the 2004 European Parliament election for the Dublin constituency, receiving over 60,000 first preference votes.[9] She served as one of two Sinn Féin MEPs, the other being Bairbre de Brún who was representing Northern Ireland. In 2007, she was shortlisted for the 'MEP of the Year' award by the European Parliament magazine watching for "making the most valuable contribution in the field of employment policy".[10] During her time in office she led the Sinn Féin campaign against the Treaty of Lisbon, which was rejected in the Republic in 2008. McDonald sat as a member of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and as a substitute of the Civil Liberties Committee.

For the 2009 European Parliament election, the number of seats for Dublin in the European Parliament was reduced from four to three. McDonald was in a tight race for the last seat against Fianna Fáil's Eoin Ryan and the Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins. McDonald lost her seat to Higgins, being eliminated at the fifth count. Her first preference vote had declined to nearly 48,000.[11]

In 2012, McDonald was awarded 'Opposition Politician of the Year' by TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne political talk show.[12]

Party activity

McDonald has been a member of the Sinn Féin party leadership since 2001,[13] and became the party's Vice President, replacing Pat Doherty, following the Sinn Féin ardfheis of 22 February 2009.

Following McDonald's election to the Dáil in 2011 she became Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform. After her re-election to the Dáil in 2016, she became Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland Spokesperson for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which she held until being elected leader of Sinn Féin in 2018.[7][14]

At the party conference on 18 November 2017, Gerry Adams was re-elected party leader, but announced that he would ask the Sinn Féin party leadership to call for a special ardfheis to be held within three months to choose a new president, and that he would not stand for re-election as TD for the Louth constituency in the next election.[15]

At the close of nominations to succeed Adams as party leader on 20 January 2018, McDonald was announced as the President-elect of Sinn Féin, as she was the sole nominee to enter the race. She was confirmed as party leader at a special ardfheis on 10 February in Dublin.[2]


In September 2003, McDonald attracted criticism when she spoke at a rally in Dublin to commemorate Seán Russell, an IRA leader with links to Nazi Germany.[16][17][18]

In June 2009, McDonald faced criticism after it emerged her campaign office was selling IRA souvenirs and memorabilia.[19][20]

In December 2015, McDonald initially backed Thomas "Slab" Murphy, who she described as a "good republican" despite him having been convicted on nine charges of tax evasion, following a trial held in the Special Criminal Court after the last person to testify against Murphy in a court was bludgeoned to death after a 1999 court case in Dublin.[21][22] She later failed to back party leader Gerry Adams' assertion that Thomas Murphy is a "good republican" after a BBC Spotlight investigation accused Murphy of being a "mass murderer".[23]

In January 2019, McDonald was criticised for her party sending two delegates to the inauguration of Nicolás Maduro, despite his election being denounced as fraudulent by Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Canada and the United States,[24][25] as well as organisations such as the European Union, with her stating "We believe the Venezuelan election was open and democratic", "It's for the people of Venezuela and them alone to decide who their president is."[26]

In March 2019, McDonald was criticised by some, including Fine Gael politician and incumbent Tánaiste Simon Coveney, for walking behind a banner in the New York City St. Patrick’s day parade which read “England Get Out of Ireland”.[27]


  1. "Mary Lou McDonald". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  2. "Mary Lou McDonald confirmed as new leader of Sinn Féin". The Irish Times. 20 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. "TDs who went to private schools split over cuts". Irish Independent. 2 December 2012.
  4. "Mary Lou McDonald MEP Dublin". Sinn Féin Online. Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved 2 July 2016.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  5. Bringing about change, delivering results, An Phoblacht, 11 December 2008
  6. Deaglán de Bréadún: Mary Lou McDonald's leadership could mark a turning point for republicanism, Irish News, 1 January 2018
  7. Mary Lou McDonald TD. Sinn Féin - Dublin Central. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  8. "Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald refuses to leave the Dail – despite being suspended". Irish Independent. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  9. "EU elections 2004 results – Dublin". Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  10. "Mary Lou McDonald shortlisted for MEP of the Year Award - An Phoblacht".
  11. "Ryan loses out to Higgins in Dublin". RTÉ News. 8 June 2008. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2008.
  12. Croffey, Amy. "Vincent Browne announces his 2012 Political Awards".
  13. "MEP profile". European Parliament. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  14. Mental health service failing those at risk of suicide – McDonald. Sinn Féin (official website). Published 21 July 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  15. Doyle, Kevin (18 November 2017). "Gerry Adams to step down as Sinn Féin leader in 2018". Irish Independent. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  16. Cusack, Jim (6 June 2004). "SF's Nazi hero is stalking candidate Mary Lou". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2008. SINN FEIN'S Mary Lou McDonald has been accused of "warped principles" for participating in a republican commemoration ceremony last year for a Nazi collaborator while standing as a candidate for the European Parliament.
  17. McDonald, Henry (16 January 2005). "This dastardly plot". The Observer. London. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  18. Colgan, Paul; Callanan, Neil. "Profile: Prime time Shinner". The Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 19 October 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. She encountered criticism after speaking at a commemoration for IRA volunteer Sean Russell last year.
  19. Sheahan, Fionnan (2 June 2009). "IRA souvenirs sell well in McDonald HQ". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  20. "Sinn Fein VP Mary Lou Mcdonald slammed for allowing sale of IRA souvenirs". Irish Central. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  21. Moriarty, Gerry (20 December 2015). "Gerry Adams had little choice but to stand by 'Slab' Murphy". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  22. O'Connor, Niall; Doyle, Kevin; Cusack, Jim (22 December 2015). "Now Mary Lou backs 'good republican' Slab". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  23. Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (5 February 2016). "Mary Lou McDonald stays silent on support for Thomas 'Slab' Murphy". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  24. "Colombia desconocerá resultado de elecciones en Venezuela, dice Santos". 25 January 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  25. Charner, Flora; Newton, Paula; Gallón, Natalie (21 May 2018). "Opponents slam Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's election victory as a sham". CNN. Retrieved 12 January 2019. An alliance of 14 Latin American nations and Canada, known as the Lima Group, released a statement Monday calling the vote illegitimate ... The alliance includes Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, St. Lucia, Guyana, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
  26. Tobin, Sharon (12 January 2019). "McDonald defends SF attendance at Maduro inauguration". RTÉ.ie. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  27. "SF leader condemned for marching with 'offensive' sign". RTÉ.ie. 17 March 2019.
European Parliament
Preceded by
Patricia McKenna
Green Party
Member of the European Parliament
for Dublin

Succeeded by
Joe Higgins
Socialist Party
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mitchel McLaughlin
Chair of Sinn Féin
Succeeded by
Declan Kearney
Preceded by
Pat Doherty
Deputy Leader of Sinn Féin
Succeeded by
Michelle O'Neill
Preceded by
Gerry Adams
Leader of Sinn Féin
Preceded by
Cyprian Brady
Fianna Fáil
Sinn Féin Teachta Dála
for Dublin Central

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