Apostrophic, Monday, February 10, while strolling through a shopping district in central Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald did not hesitate long: would she see herself as Prime Minister? "It could be," the chef at Sinn Fein responded tac to tac. Improbable a few days ago, this prospect did not seem any more absurd these last hours, the 50-year-old leader having become an unavoidable figure of the Irish political game following the general elections of February 8.
It was, in fact, to Mary Lou McDonald that the prorunification republican party owed its historic victory. Monday evening, after a complex count, Sinn Fein had managed to get elected 37 members of the Dail, the Irish Lower House, a record. Admittedly not enough to direct national policy alone, but far too much for the center-right formations historically at the helm of the country – Fianna Fail (FF) and Fine Gael (FG) – to continue to ignore the party and its ambitious president. The two parties recorded the worst performances in their long history, with 38 and 35 elected respectively.
It is still to Mary Lou McDonald, who has directed it since February 2018, that the SF owes its moult, from a marginalized formation for having been the political branch of the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) to a movement which is now frequentable. . The party is still very much anchored on the left and is now developing a discourse and progressive priorities (pro-abortion, gay marriage). And he focused on everyday problems, especially those of young people: lack of social housing, inflation of rents, failed public transport and health system …
First committed to Fianna Fail
The contrast between "Mary Lou" and Gerry Adams, his predecessor and figure of Sinn Fein, is striking. She is discreetly elegant and wisely styled, the ex-leader of the party continues to wear a beard, long hair and often a twisted sweater. At 71, suspected of having been one of the senior leaders of the IRA (which he has always denied), Mr. Adams still symbolizes the period of "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Mary Lou McDonald was raised in Rathgar, a rather affluent area of the Irish capital, went through a private school and has university degrees in literature and human resources management.
She certainly got involved in politics early in the 1990s, but first in Fianna Fail, and joined Sinn Fein only in 2001. Out of ambition, were for a moment whispered by opponents. Out of conviction, she always replied. She quickly climbed the ladder. In 2004, she distinguished herself by becoming the first elected representative of the republican formation in the European Parliament and as of 2009, Gerry Adams made her her assistant. "She is brilliant, articulate, she has self-confidence, she is good in debates. The people of Sinn Fein couldn't believe their luck when she joined them, " recently judged Deaglan de Bréadun, journalist and specialist on Sinn Fein in the columns of Guardian.