Today we have witnessed new era of female political power in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Arlene Foster leader of the DUP and the young Michelle O’Neill leader of Sinn Fein the nationalist stalwart and visionary. On a much broader scale, our British Prime Minister Theresa May leads the Government and is now seen as the shrewd razor sharp force to be reckoned with in International politics, although this may be widely debated. Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland a very able left wing nationalist with a similar vision as O’Neill. Well seasoned male politicians in Northern Ireland including Ministers with portfolio have not been re-elected and can only hope to be reelected next time round. In both Westminster and in our local Assembly, the role of women in politics is making a strong impact on how we see and negotiate our future. The bastion of male power in the Unionist camp has been thwarted with the resignation of Mike Nesbitt its leader. Pressure from Sinn Fein for Arlene to step aside until the Public enquiry is completed, but her personality type will prevent this from happening.
On our television screens last week we saw the real personalities of these two women emerge arguing their ideological positions for all to see on the world stage. We have seen them in action consistently over the previous months well before the renewable energy fiasco. Two main extreme political parties who have for one reason or another chosen to elect firebrand women as political leaders. Why must this be? What have they to offer the political decision making apparatus that men may not have? Traditionally we see male political leaders like Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and many more dominate the world of International politics. We ask how the psyche of these statesmen are in any way different from female political leaders?
Let’s look analytically at the personality traits observed over several years. Arlene a young bright well educated woman born and reared in Co Fermanagh grew up destined for the law profession. Having almost lost a family member at the hands of the provisionals, this socio-political context and her strong Christian born again beliefs sharpened the female class consciousness and guided her motives to preserve the British cultural identity of which lies her core personality traits. Her main personality traits show a high achiever academically, politically astute driven by power to achieve the best possible for all of the Ulster people. Objectively we can see inclusivity in her overall personality set, but the persona is tainted with political paradoxes. The rhetoric is sincere when she wishes a better life for all the people of the province, but this conflicts with her rustication of the nationalist cause and the Irish identity. Her consistent use of rhetoric resonates with her toughmindedness, intelligence and shrewdness. Arlene, in her previous Ministerial role demonstrated boldness together with warmth, two essential ingredients to utilize persuasion and decision making in the international arena. An extrovert, Arlene is self focused, self determined showing more recently signs of tension and anxiety. Her independent thinking is sculptured and influenced carefully by her political advisers but moderated by her Christian beliefs and ultra strong faith. One can sense a moderate concern for a more egalitarian approach to the changing role of women, Protestant, Catholic and others, not only in politics but in the province generally. If this were to be generalized to be inclusive of all Ulster women of both identities, it may have been seen as abait for Sinn Fein to see her as a co worker with socio cultural empathy. She shows restrain and responsibility together with a well integrated set of personality factors. Shrewd and forthright, Arlene could learn much from being a little more polished with less emphasis on political rhetoric. Over the years Arlene has shown in her personality a strong sense of conscientiousness, dominant, assertive and very competitive. Her legal and logical mind is well integrated with other of her traits, such as empathy and impartiality, ultra conservative and traditional. Her personality motives demonstrate a strong desire for power and status as her Irish counterpart Michelle O’Neill. There is an intensity in her motives in particular the high need for acceptance after the Renewable Heat Initiative scenario, not helped by not making it on the first round count. Her charismatic authority in Northern Ireland politics has facilitated the development of her super ego strength, imperative for any senior politician. An Alpha female, Arlene is determined to succeed at any cost and has the ingredients of a leader necessary to work together, but she has to utilize all of her personality traits and motives to engage with SF leader O’Neill in an effective and productive manner. The underlying elements here are more psychological rather than political as seen by the media. She simply cannot afford to lose face at this crucial time in NI Politics and sustain her psychological as well as her political integrity to enact change for the common good.
Michelle O’Neill has an intriguing personality which has not been ever focused upon by Irish or British media recently, if at all. Born in the Co Tyrone village of Clonoe near Coalisland, a republican stronghold, she worked as a teenager for her father was a Councillor in Dungannon. At the age of 21 she joined SF after the Good Friday Agreement, being politically and sociologically conscious of her cultural heritage and Irish identity, and became an advisor to Francie Molloy in the Assembly. Her political representative and her SF Party members saw this young woman as having potential to learn the art of NI Politics as they saw it. Michelle O’Neill as ex Mayor of Dungannon in Co Tyrone, had rigidly strong Irish nationalist views, whilst not an orator like Arlene Foster, nor having the legalistic University education of Arlene, her self efficacy became the motivational force for her to learn the art of politics by hands on experience. In terms of her enigmatic personality, she equals Arlene Foster as a young vibrant Irish politician, inflexible to the core and as a former Minister of Health, has carefully sculptured her way forward as the futuristic prophet of Sinn Fein. In her political career to date, Michelle reflects her dominant personality type, with increased imagination and heightened sense of idealism, mixed in with a hefty cocktail of traits such as being fiercely competitive and tough-minded, tenacious and venturesome similarly to Arlene. A shrewd politician but not in the same sense as Mrs Foster, Michele and Arlene shows the traits of suspiciousness and below average trust. A common feature in most politicians, this was largely overcome retrospectively with Dr Ian Paisley and Martin Guinness, who laid the building blocks of working together productively. Michelle has a strong sense of conservatism and traditionalism as part of her personality much like her opponent Arlene. Unpretentious and self confident, Ms O’Neill’s republican ideology is anchored deep in her personal identity, with unwavering loyalty and commitment to Irish Nationalism. A youngish extrovert with tough poise, she is on par with Arlene for superego strength, which is one of the reasons why they will clash on screen and off screen in the debating Chamber. In relation to her motivational state there is a tenacious lust for power and status as the First Nationalist Minister at Stormont fuelled by her self efficacy and heightened determinism. Her main problem relates to her being accepted seriously as a potential First Minister. Everyone is motivated to be accepted in life but this is something extraordinary. She also has an incredibly strong intense basic desire to impress the loyalist people of the province of her assumed impartiality and reassurance of the full and complete protection of Ulster Protestants of their firmly held protestant values and British heritage. This is far from being a reality even in the current surge of support for SF. Dependable largely on the skilled use of political rhetoric, she uses her learnt by rote lists of political priorities to engage media interviewers to get across her point over DUP. People with a strong sense of desire for acceptance usually are lacking in self confidence, but not so in her case. The school of hard knocks at Stormont has taught her much.