Caitríona Ruane is a deeply committed human rights and community activist, is married with two daughters and lives in Louth.
A fluent Spanish speaker, she worked for a US-based aid foundation from 1983-87 in Central America. On her return to Ireland she worked full-time for Trocaire before co-founding the Centre for Research and Documentation, which studied conflict resolution in South Africa and Central America and hosted Nobel Peace Prize winners (Rigoberta Menchu from Guatemala and Jose Ramos Horta from East Timor) on a visit to Ireland. Caitríona was an international observer for the first free and fair elections in South Africa that saw Nelson Mandela become President.
She was a member of the Committee on the Administration of Justice and organised the Belfast Forum on Policing conference in 1994. She has lobbied the UN and the EU on human rights in the North and was involved in organising inquiries and compiling reports into the deaths of Fergal Caraher (shot dead by a British soldier) and Patrick Shanaghan (a victim of collusion between loyalists and state forces).
From 1997-2001 Caitríona was the Director of Féile an Phobail (the West Belfast Festival and Europe’s biggest Community Festival) and a founder of the St Patrick’s Day Parade, during which time she took unionists in the city hall to court on grounds of funding discrimination.
In 2000 President Mary McAleese presented Caitríona with the Aisling Person of the Year Award.
A Gaelgeoir and formerly a member of the Comhairle na GaelscolaÌochta executive (which promotes and develops Irish language schools) Caitríona’s two children (aged 11 and 7) have attended an Irish language school in County Down since they were three years of age.
Caitríona has been chairperson of the ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign, working for the release of the three Irish men imprisoned in Colombia on false charges. She has travelled to Bogota on sixteen occasions, coordinating the prisoners’ legal teams in Ireland and Colombia and organising international observers for the trial, which concluded in August.
A strong advocate of equality, in 2013 Caitríona received the ‘Politician of the year’ award during the LGBT pride awards for her work in campaigning on behalf of the gay community on issues such as same sex marriage and adoption.
Caitríona was first elected MLA for South Down in November 2003 and has held a number of posts during that time including that of Education Minister, where she continually worked for the abolition of academic selection. She is the current Sinn Féin Party Whip and is a member of the Policing Board.