Northern Ireland’s new First Minister-elect Michelle O’Neill says being a teenage mother has made her the person she is.
The Sinn Fein deputy leader has spoken candidly about becoming pregnant with her daughter Saoirse when she was 16.
She said: “Being a young mum, well, that’s been my life experience, it’s made me who I am, it makes you stronger I think.
“I know what it’s like to be in tough situations. I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to go to school and have a baby at home .
“At that time, you’re talking about 1993, society, compared to today, was still very different.
“You’ve been neatly put in a box: single mother, single mother, almost written off.
“But I was determined not to be written off, to work hard and give him a good life.”
Ms O’Neill, 45, is set to become the first Sinn Fein politician to lead Northern Ireland following her party’s victory historic election victory.
She comes from a staunchly Irish Republican family from Clonoe, County Tyrone.
His father, Brendan Doris, was an IRA prisoner, his uncle Paul Doris one of three IRA men shot dead by the SAS in 1991, and his cousin Gareth Doris, an IRA member shot and wounded by the army in 1997.
Ms O’Neill joined Sinn Fein after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 aged 21 and inherited the council seat from her late father.
Elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007, she was Minister of Agriculture, then Minister of Health.
But it was the death of Martin McGuinness in 2017 that elevated her to Sinn Fein vice-president and eventually deputy first minister.
In an interview with Sky News earlier this year, Ms O’Neill dismissed any doubt that Stormont was ready for a Sinn Fein premier.
She said: “We are a conflict-ridden society and we have had a very difficult past.
“We must also recognize that we have all had a very different experience than the past.”
Speaking in 2020, in her only joint interview with then Prime Minister Arlene Foster, Ms O’Neill told Sky News their “common ground” as both mothers and daughters.
“I think sometimes people think that politicians are a separate people, that we live a different reality, but our reality is the same as everyone else’s,” she added.
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