Political Platform

Órfhlaith Begley is Northern Ireland’s most recently elected MP after winning the West Tyrone by-election with a majority of over 8,000. Begley contested and won the seat vacated by her party colleague Barry McElduff, who resigned his seat over a social media controversy and becomes the first female MP to represent the constituency.

Outline your background / career to date

I am 26-years-old and have lived in Carrickmore, County Tyrone all my life. I have been involved in republican politics for many years, working on elections and as a member of my local cumann, the Frank Ward/Joseph McGarrity cumann in Carrickmore. I graduated with a degree in Law with Politics from Queen’s University, Belfast. I then went on to continue studying at Queen’s in the Institute of Professional and Legal Studies, where I qualified as a solicitor. Until this election, I practised as a solicitor in both civil and criminal law.

What inspired you to get into politics?

I have always had an interest in politics and have been actively involved in Sinn Féin for many years. It’s always been part of who I am. My father is a long-standing republican who was a Sinn Féin councillor for 26 years and served as Chairman of Omagh District Council as well as the Sinn Féin Director of elections for West Tyrone. So, I’ve always been very aware of the importance of politics and the ability it has to improve peoples’ lives. I have seen at first hand the positive change that Sinn Féin has brought about, particularly through the peace process and I want to be part of building on that for future generations.

Who do you admire in politics or public life / political role models?

Women in politics as in every walk of life continue to struggle against inequalities and gender imbalances in our still male-dominated society. But women have made significant progress – but only because of the courage and determination of those who came before us – the suffragettes and feminists who demanded change. Those women are my inspiration and political role models and, specifically, I greatly admire the first woman elected to the Westminster Parliament, Countess Markievicz.

I became the first ever woman elected MP for the constituency of West Tyrone and I feel enormously privileged to follow in the footsteps of Countess Markievicz.

She was a radical in every sense of the word. She was a feminist, a socialist, an internationalist, an Irish republican and a revolutionary. As an Irish MP she refused to sit in the British parliament – 100 years later I have been elected by the people of West Tyrone on the same abstentionist mandate.

What drew you to Sinn Féin?

Sinn Féin is the only party with the vision, the strategy and the ability to create a new Ireland based on genuine equality and fairness for all citizens. I want to be part of making that happen and when you look at the growth of the party right across Ireland in recent years, it is clear that more and more people endorse what we are working towards. The calibre of those involved in the party was also an important factor for me. It is inspiring to be part of a party that has so many people who have dedicated their lives to achieving a better Ireland and have sacrificed so much in the process. But as well as that, there is a whole new generation of confident, vibrant and dedicated activists across the 32 countries who are determined to secure a better future and a new, agreed Ireland. I’m honoured to be part of that.

What are your key priorities for your constituency?

I want to be an MP who stands up for everyone in West Tyrone. An MP who stands up for equality and rights. An MP who will work for Irish unity and help build a modern and inclusive Ireland. An Ireland in which political persuasion, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or skin colour make no difference as to how a citizen is treated.

I want to build bridges with the unionist community and to engage in real and meaningful reconciliation that can help us understand each other better and work towards learning to share this island in a spirit of mutual respect and parity of esteem.

I will be a strong voice against the impact of Brexit on West Tyrone and Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland team has already shown the impact we can have by forcing special status to remain in the EU onto the agenda to such an extent that it is now a real possibility.

I will prioritise issues such as job creation, roads infrastructure, broadband access and progressing the big investment projects in West Tyrone including the Strule education campus and the A5. These are the issues facing this constituency and I will champion them as part of the all-Ireland Sinn Féin team which has been so successful to date. No other party is in a position to do that because no other party has elected representation right across Ireland and has shown time and again that we can impact and bring positive change in Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels.

What are your interests outside work?

I have a keen interest in the GAA. I played football in my youth for Carrickmore and I am a supporter of the local Éire Óg hurling club. My legal background has instilled in me a real passion for human rights advocacy and that is something I will continue to pursue as the MP. However, I am quickly learning that life as a Sinn Féin MP leaves very little time for outside interests but I feel privileged to have been entrusted with this responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference for the people of West Tyrone, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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