Election 2020: Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin)

The Dublin Central candidate was elected on the first count

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Damien Eagers


Mary Lou McDonald (50) begins her third year as Sinn Féin leader this week a very happy woman.

A year ago the view across politics was that her leadership had failed to catch fire. Nobody is saying that now, after the seismic surge for the party.

A strong Dáil and media performer, her calm and assured style in the TV leadership debates garnered much praise, and her middle-class background and look help to widen the traditionally working-class party’s reach.

She is married with two children, and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick and DCU.

She was an MEP before she became a TD in 2011. Her party was on an upward trend with a sterling performance in the 2014 local elections.

But the move to Sinn Féin swung away again after she compared the role of the 1981 IRA hunger strikers with that of those who fought for independence at the foundation of the State. She was deputy leader at the time and was seeking the party presidency.

A believer in incremental progress, this major move forwards will require her to develop party organisational skills that her predecessor knew in minute detail.