Mary Lou McDonald tipped to succeed Adams

Sinn Fein's northern leader Michelle O'Neill (left), Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, after he addressed the party'sArd Fheis in the RDS, Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

SINN FÉIN'S Mary Lou McDonald is the clear favourite to take over the role as party leader when Gerry Adams steps down next year.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader was described recently by her party colleague Carál Ní Chuílín as "one of the most formidable women in politics."

Born in May 1969, she was raised in the affluent Rathgar area of Dublin and was educated at Notre Dame, a private fee-paying school in the city. She is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Limerick and DCU.

Her first formal link to politics was as a consultant and researcher with the Institute of European Affairs, a think tank run by Brendan Halligan, the former Labour TD.

She joined Fianna Fáil in 1998, then defected to Sinn Féin shortly afterwards, becoming deputy leader in 2009.

She was an MEP before she became a TD in 2011.

Mrs McDonald is definitely the rising star of the party and has said "if there were a vacancy" for the role of president she "would certainly consider it."

Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill is being touted by some as a possible contender, although she has ruled that out, telling the Irish News in an interview last week that she had no desire to lead the party because she already had "enough to do leading the north at this moment in time".

She is however being tipped as a runner for the deputy leadership of the party.

Born in 1977 in the village of Clonoe in rural Co Tyrone Ms O'Neill hails from a family of prominent Irish republicans.

Her father, Brendan "Basil" Doris, was a former IRA prisoner who became a Sinn Féin councillor in Dungannon.

She began working for the party when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

Her assembly career began in 2007, when she joined Martin McGuinness and Francie Molloy as a Mid Ulster MLA.

She rose to the role of agriculture minister before becoming health minister.

Ms O'Neill has been at the forefront in recent months of the Stormont talks aimed at restoring the collapsed powersharing Executive.

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