Coolea's Liadh selected to join presidential race for Sinn Féin

September 25th, 2018 7:10 AM

By Emma Connolly

Sinn Féin MEP and presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada on board the Castletownbere trawler Ronan Ross during an EU Fisheries Committee fact finding trip to West Cork this week. (Photo: Niall Duffy)

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PRESIDENTIAL hopeful and Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ní Riada said that losing both her parents from an early age and not coming from a place of privilege has created in her an innate sense of what’s right and wrong and how to treat other people. 

The 51-year-old Coolea (Cúl Aodha) native says she remembers coming home from school to a cold house in her early teens, there being no dinner on the table and, having to light the fire and see if there was anything to eat. 

The MEP for Ireland South lost her mother when she was 10, and her father, the iconic musician and composer Seán, when she was three.

‘I didn’t know my father but we were automatically linked to culture because of the name,’ she recalls in a video on her website

When he died, her mother was left to raise seven children, the youngest of which was Liadh. 

She described her journalist mother as ‘very accomplished, strong, socially active and socially conscious.’

However, she described having no guidance through her teenage years as ‘tough’.

‘That did shape me in that I became incredibly independent and independent-minded as well. And because you come from that vulnerable place in life, that you are not privileged, and have to fight for everything, almost fight for survival, it makes you far more compassionate and empathetic to others going through that.’

With no one at home to look after her, she remembers moving to Limerick to live with her aunt when she was 15 and where the native Irish speaker had to learn English. Having sat her Leaving Cert there, she ‘did bits of pieces of courses’ and was trained as a TV director and producer in RTÉ. 

She recalls ‘falling madly in love’ and marrying a neighbour from Coolea she met in Dublin. Tragically he died from cancer just two months before their first wedding anniversary. It was unexpected, she said, as they had an ‘incredible optimism that it was not going to happen.’

But she said she was blessed a second time to meet another incredible man, her now husband Nicky Forde, who brought  her ‘out of the depths of a really bad place’ and who she described as ‘the best husband in Ireland.’

They are parents to three daughters Cáit (17), Ailsa (15) and Neans (12). Having been appointed Irish officer with Sinn Fein in 2011, she went on to be elected as MEP for Ireland South in 2014, which she said was a ‘baptism of fire.’

Sitting on the fisheries committee, she has been vocal on the threat Brexit poses to the Irish fishing industry. 

During this week’s visit by the European Parliament Fisheries Committee to Clonakilty and Castletownbere she said it was ‘crucial’ that both the EU and the Irish government acknowledged this threat. 

She says that. like all mothers, she struggles with a sense of guilt when she’s away in Brussels and Strasbourg: ‘My heart is always at home but my mind is always focused on the job.’

She said in a statement: ‘I will be a voice for a caring Ireland. A fair Ireland. An Ireland where every child has a home. An Ireland that leaves no one behind. 

‘I will honour the contribution of our carers and those working in our public services. I will launch a presidential initiative to recognise employers paying fair wages.’

She also said she would lead the discussion an a united Ireland. 

However, her  career hasn’t been without controversy. She previously declined to call the IRA ‘terrorists’ and having said in 2016 she would not allow her daughter to receive the HPV vaccine, she has since clarified she is now pro-vaccine.

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