Sabina Coyne-Higgins, People from Co. Mayo

Sabina Coyne, actress and wife of Irish President Michael D Higgins, is a native of Cloonrane, 1km south of Ballindine.

Her husband Michael D Higgins was elected as the ninth President of Ireland on October 27, 2011.

Sabina was born in Cloonrane on the Galway-Mayo border and went to school in the local primary school in Ballindine and later attended secondary school at the Convent of Mercy in Claremorris.

At 18, she moved to Dublin to work in the office of the Land Commission and began to study acting under Deirdre O'Connell who had trained at the Actor's Studio in New York. Deirdre was an Irish-American actress and folk singer and she and Sabina soon founded the Stanislavski Studio, an acting method based on the theatrical theories and acting methods of Constantin Stanislavski.

In 1963 she and Deirdre were founder members of the Focus Theatre, where Sabina went on to work with actors such as Tom Hickey, Timmy McDonald, Mary Elizabeth Burke Kennedy, Joan Bergin and many others. When Deirdre O'Connell married singer Luke Kelly in 1965, Sabina was bridesmaid at their wedding.

In 1966, Sabina was one of the cast of Insurrection, RTE's TV series dramatising the events of 1916 and marking the 50th aniversary of the rising. She also acted in Chekhov and in Ibsen plays.

Sabina's future was to change forever in 1969 when she attended a party at the home of journalist Mary Kenny, on the night that Mary was appointed Women's Editor of the Irish Press. Michael D Higgins was also invited to that party and his attention was quickly drawn to the 'willowy young woman with long flowing blonde hair'. The two struck up a relationship and Michael D proposed to her at Christmas 1973 and they married the following July, in Dublin's Haddington Road Church.

Sabina moved to Galway, and quickly found herself thrust into the drama of public life, taking part in each of her husband's election campaigns from then on. She maintained her involvement with theatre and community arts, working with Druid, An Taibhearch and other groups. However, she gave up full-time acting when she married and had her children - three sons, including twins, and a daughter.

She became very active in community initiatives in Galway and was involved in the setting up of Parents' Councils on a local and national level to promote parents as partners in education.

She returned to education as a mature student when she was 60 and received a BA in Arts and an MA in Theatre from NUI Galway. She is passionate about all aspects of drama and continues to nurture theatre and the arts in Ireland.

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