Public Affairs

Political Platform: Aisling Reilly MLA

After being re-elected in 2022, Sinn Féin’s Aisling Reilly MLA made history during her first speech back in Stormont when she became the first MLA to address the Assembly chamber in the Irish language. The west Belfast representative and talented sportswoman tells agendaNi about her passion, inspiration, and plans for the future.

Outline your background/career to date

I was born and raised in Andersonstown, west Belfast, where I continue to live. I am the second youngest child of seven, having three brothers and three sisters. I have been heavily involved in sport and, in particular, GAA throughout my life, having played all sports for both my local GAA club and County Antrim. I was educated at Coláiste Feirste on the Falls Road. I left school immediately after my A-levels, to pursue a career in elite sport.

I worked in the Northern Ireland Civil Service in several departments for around eight years while also being an elite athlete at the Sport Institute of Northern Ireland programme based in the Jordanstown Campus in Ulster University, and travelling back and forth to the US to compete in International competitions and their professional tour.

I have been involved in all codes of the GAA but my particular passion is GAA handball. I have won many titles in the sport, however, winning the World Championships in 2012 and retaining it in 2015 are among my proudest achievements.

What inspired you to get into politics?

I have been a Sinn Féin supporter for as long as I can remember and a party member for a few years. I began working with the party in 2020 and from there I worked with a lot of our representatives before going forward in the Assembly elections in 2022.

I have always been interested in politics locally and kept an eye on what was happening. I am a local woman, involved in my community, and I feel I can help support people and make our community and wider society a place where people are safe and proud of. When the opportunity came around to go forward as a candidate I thought, ‘why not?’

Aisling Reilly MLA making history as the first MLA to make a full speech to the Assembly in Irish.

Who do you admire in politics or public life?

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were always inspirational political figures when I was growing up. I admired their work, alongside others, to bring about peace. Their willingness to work and listen to others is what has allowed me, as a young woman, to move into politics. I respect anybody who puts themselves forward to stand as an elected representative.

What drew you to Sinn Féin?

Sinn Féin has been the only active party, not just in my local area, but throughout the North and Ireland which, in my opinion, works tirelessly to make our communities better.

All local representatives are local people, my neighbours, easily accessible, and know the issues that people are facing on a daily basis. I see the work that the party has done, not just today but over the past 25 years, and the plan that we have for the next 25 years and beyond.

“I am a local woman, involved in my community, and I feel I can help support people and make our community and wider society a place where people are safe and proud of.”

What are your key priorities for your constituency/what are the key issues facing your constituency?

The main priorities in my constituency, at this point in time, is the need to build more social and affordable homes, which Sinn Féin is committed to doing. We currently have thousands of people in housing stress and I support a lot of people through my office in that regard. We also have challenges with health waiting lists, day-to-day issues such as traffic calming, safer roads, making our community safer, and ensuring that we are working around the clock to be the voice of the people who elected us.

What are your interests outside work?

I like to keep fairly active outside of work. I enjoy sport and still play a small bit of handball when I can. I also enjoy going to the gym and walking. I have a springer spaniel dog and she loves the mountains. I also enjoy spending time with family, friends, and catching up.

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