Michelle Gildernew
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Michelle Gildernew

Michelle Gildernew
Michelle Gildernew Dec 2014.jpg
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Northern Ireland

8 May 2007 - 5 May 2011
Ian Paisley
Peter Robinson
Arlene Foster (Acting)
Peter Robinson
Bríd Rodgers
Michelle O'Neill
Member of Parliament
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

8 June 2017
Tom Elliot
Majority57 (0.1%)

7 June 2001 - 30 March 2015
Ken Maginnis
Tom Elliott
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

5 May 2016 - 9 June 2017
Bronwyn McGahan
Colm Gildernew

25 June 1998 - 7 July 2012
Position established
Bronwyn McGahan
Personal details
Born (1970-03-28) 28 March 1970 (age 50)
Dungannon, Northern Ireland
Political partySinn Féin
Spouse(s)Jimmy Taggart
RelativesColm Gildernew (brother)
Alma materUniversity of Ulster

Michelle Gildernew (born 28 March 1970) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She is the Member of Parliament (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. She was the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 2001 to 2015, and was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for the Assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone from June 1998 to July 2012.[1] She was re-elected to the Assembly in 2016 and 2017; and in 2017 reclaimed her seat in Parliament from Tom Elliott of the Ulster Unionist Party.

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 of other statutory and ad-hoc committees.[2]

Education and background

Born in Dungannon, Gildernew attended St Catherine's College Armagh and later the University of Ulster, Coleraine. 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 family based at the "Gildernew farm complex" (as described on Ordnance Survey maps) in County Tyrone.[2] During the 1960s, the family were leading figures in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and took part in a 1968 protest in Caledon, County Tyrone over housing discrimination.[3]

Political career

On returning to Northern Ireland in 1996, Gildernew was the second-placed but unsuccessful candidate for Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Forum elections for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.[4] The following year, she was appointed Sinn Féin representative to London and was part of the first Sinn Féin delegation to visit Downing Street. In the 1998 Assembly elections, she was elected MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, retaining the seat in the 2003 and 2007 elections.[3] Gildernew has campaigned on women's and mothers' rights.[5]

Election to Westminster

In the 2001 UK general election, Gildernew was elected to Parliament as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, defeating the Ulster Unionist candidate James Cooper by 53 votes. Like all Sinn Féin MPs, she followed a policy of abstentionism and never took her seat in Westminster in the three 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 Unionists (DUP), Ulster Conservatives and Unionists and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) all chose not to field candidates and she held her seat by 4 votes against independent Unionist Rodney Connor.[6]

In October 2014, Sinn Féin announced that Gildernew would be the party's candidate in the 2015 Westminster election.[7] She lost the seat by 530 votes to Ulster Unionist Party 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.[8]

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.[9]

2011 Irish presidential election

In September 2011, the Belfast Telegraph reported that Sinn Féin was considering Gildernew as their candidate for that year's Irish presidential election.[10] In the event, Martin McGuinness stood for Sinn Féin.

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".[11] Quinn, the former head of the privately owned QUINN group (now Aventas), was declared bankrupt in January 2012.[12] (With loans worth around EUR1.2 billion from the Anglo-Irish Bank, the QUINN group was exposed by its collapse and, on 30 March 2010, the High Court appointed joint provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance Ltd.[13])

Sinn Féin distanced themselves from Gildernew's comments made with Mary Lou McDonald that the Quinns had engaged in illegal business practices.[14]

Personal life

Gildernew is married to Jimmy Taggart and is the mother of two boys, Emmet and Eunan, and one girl, Aoise.[15]


  1. ^ Whyte, Nicholas. "Elections: Northern Ireland ELECTIONS: Fermanagh and South Tyrone 1998". ark.ac.uk. ARK. Retrieved 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA". Fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com. Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Féin. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Profile of Minister Michelle Gildernew". dardni.gov.uk. Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland. 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  4. ^ "Elections: Northern Ireland ELECTIONS: Candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone 1996". ark.ac.uk. ARK. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ "Candidate: Michelle Gildernew". U.tv. UTV. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ "Election 2010 | Fermanagh and South Tyrone". BBC News. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ "Michelle Gildernew MP selected as Fermanagh South Tyrone Westminster candidate". Fermanaghsouthtyronesf.com. Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Féin. 20 October 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ Dale, Iain (2010). The Times Guide to the House of Commons. London: Times Books. ISBN 9780007351589.
  9. ^ "Consultations". dardni.gov.uk. Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (9 November 2016). "Sinn Fein tipped to run Gildernew for Irish president". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ Edwards, Rodney (26 July 2012). "Sean Quinn: We are 'devastated' over son's jailing". The Impartial Reporter. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  12. ^ Keena, Colm (11 January 2012). "Quinn bankruptcy case set for Dublin court on Monday". Irish Times. Retrieved 2012.
  13. ^ Sheehan, Maeve (4 April 2010). "Industry captain's ill-fated voyage on the sinking ship". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media PLC [INM]. Retrieved 2012.
  14. ^ "Sinn Féin 'distances itself' from Sean Quinn". BBC News. 1 August 2012.
  15. ^ "Interview : Michelle Gildernew, the first minister in Ireland to give birth while in office". An Phoblacht. 27 November 2008.

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