Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Mary Mitchell O'Connor (born 10 June 1959) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister of State for Higher Education since June 2017. She has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since 2011. She previously served as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation from 2016 to 2017.[1][2][3]

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Minister of State for Higher Education
Assumed office
14 June 2017
TaoiseachLeo Varadkar
Preceded byNew office
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
In office
6 May 2016  14 June 2017
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byRichard Bruton
Succeeded byFrances Fitzgerald
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2011
ConstituencyDún Laoghaire
Personal details
Mary O'Connor

(1959-06-10) 10 June 1959
Milltown, County Galway, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Other political
Progressive Democrats
Joe Mitchell
(m. 1984; div. 2004)
Alma mater

Early and personal life

Born Mary O'Connor in Milltown, County Galway. She graduated from Carysfort College and NUI, Maynooth, and worked as a teacher. She was appointed principal of Scoil Cholmcille, Skryne, County Meath. In 1999, she became school principal at The Harold School, Glasthule, a position she held until her election to the Dáil.

She lives in Cabinteely, Dublin. She is divorced and has two sons from her marriage.[4][5][6]

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council: 2004–11

In 2004, as a Progressive Democrats candidate, she was elected to Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council.[7] As a Councillor, she campaigned against the reintroduction of university fees, against the budget-related increase in pupil-teacher ratios. She also took part in the Sandycove Tidy Towns campaign.

In 2006, when the Maritime Museum closed, she called on the council to financially support it.[8]

In December 2007, she resigned from the Progressive Democrats and joined Fine Gael.[9] Welcoming her to the party, Enda Kenny said that it was "the first move by a Progressive Democrats public representative to join an alternative party since the general election". Mitchell O'Connor said that she "made a decision on how best to represent the people that elected me".[10] In 2008–09, she was Chairperson of Dún Laoghaire Area Committee for Transport, Economic Development and Planning.[11]

In June 2009, she was re-elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. She was the Chairperson of Dún Laoghaire Area Committee for Environment, Housing, Culture, Community Development and Amenities.[11] She has led campaigns to protect public amenities in Dún Laoghaire, including public access to the sea front, public transport, and she campaigned to prevent the acquisition of Dún Laoghaire baths by private companies. In 2010, she led the Save the Sandycove Green Campaign against adding more parking spaces to Sandycove Green.

Dáil Éireann: 2011–present

In December 2010, she was selected as a Fine Gael candidate for the Dún Laoghaire constituency.[12]

Mitchell O'Connor was elected as a TD for the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 2011 general election. The newly elected Fine Gael TD surprised staff at Leinster House on 2 March 2011, by driving her campaign car across the pedestrian plinth in the Dáil car park and down the steps. The plinth has a ramp at one side to facilitate wheelchair access, but steps at the other end. The incident was witnessed by several journalists and was reported on by the RTÉ evening news.[13]

On 8 June 2015, Mitchell O'Connor was selected by Dún Laoghaire Fine Gael as their candidate to contest the next general election at a selection convention. She defeated councillors Barry Ward and Maria Bailey, daughter of John Bailey, although Bailey was later added to the ticket and was also elected.[14] She came through and, after a delay due to talks on government formation, was appointed Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in May 2016.

After Leo Varadkar was appointed Taoiseach in June 2017, she was not re-appointed to cabinet, but was instead given a junior ministerial role as Minister of State for Higher Education.[15] This is a "super junior" role which allows her attend cabinet meetings, but does not have a vote.

Campaigns and policies

Mitchell O'Connor is an advocate for women's rights. In August 2010, she called for a reform of Dáil Éireann, so that women can work efficiently there.[16] She campaigned for the eviction of men who are perpetrators of domestic violence.[17]

In July 2011, Mitchell O'Connor turned Leinster House pink in aid of breast cancer.[18] Mitchell O'Connor is pro-choice and supported repealing the Eighth Amendment.[19]

In November 2018, Mitchell O'Connor announced female only academic posts to increase the proportion of senior female academics in universities and institutes of technology in Ireland.[20]


  1. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  2. Collins, Stephen (2011). Nealon's Guide to the 31st Dáil and 24th Seanad. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p. 107. ISBN 9780717150595.
  3. "Boyd-Barret takes last Dún Laoghaire seat". The Irish Times. 27 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  4. "Profile: Mary Mitchell-O'Connor". The Irish Times. 29 February 2016.
  5. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor". (Sunday Independent). 24 February 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  6. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor partied in Coppers". 15 June 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  7. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor". Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  8. "Minutes of Meeting of County Council". Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. 13 March 2006. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  9. Brennan, Michael (11 December 2007). "Defection of O'Connor to Fine Gael is a fresh blow for the PDs". Irish Independent. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  10. "Enda Kenny Welcomes Former PD Cllr Mary Mitchell O'Connor to Fine Gael Party". City Local. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  11. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor". Electoral candidates. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  12. "Fine Gael urges Ross to contest election". The Irish Times. 13 January 2011.
  13. "Fine Gael and Labour briefed on economy". RTÉ News. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  14. O'Connor, Niall (8 June 2015). "Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor selected to represent party in Dun Laoghaire". Irish Independent.
  15. "Mary Mitchell O'Connor demoted in Leo Varadkar's Cabinet". The Irish Times. 14 June 2017.
  16. "Mum Olwyn is right to quit the Dail, insists Fox". Evening Herald. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  17. "Council powerless to evict perpetrators of domestic violence". Dublin People. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  18. "Dáil turns pink for cancer awareness". RTÉ News. 15 July 2011.
  19. O'Connell, Hugh. "Fine Gael politicians are VERY divided on the 8th Amendment*". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  20. Kelly, Emma O (11 November 2018). "Government plans women-only senior academic posts". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
Preceded by
Barry Andrews
(Fianna Fáil)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Dún Laoghaire
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Bruton
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Succeeded by
Frances Fitzgerald
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