Her mother Lena Donnellan, originally from Mullagh, County Clare, supported Fine Gael.
Niamh Breathnach was born in Dublin on 1 June 1945, the second eldest of five sisters - Sighle, Eibhlin, Fionnuala and Eadaoin.
Her father, Breandán, was a Clann na Phoblachta supporter and supported Dr Noel Browne. Her mother Lena, originally from Clare, supported Fine Gael. An uncle was a chairman of the Fine Gael Party. Both of her parents were civil servants and did not express political views. As Niamh says, ‘she had no political blood in her at all.’
It was a house full of music - her father played the uileann pipes and was a collector of music, which eventually formed the collection of the traditional music archive.
Niamh’s parents believed in education and her father wanted his daughters to stay in school until they were 21. As Niamh recalled ‘she had no sense she would have to marry and settle down’.
Niamh met Tom Ferris at a party in Dublin. They had two children, Clíodhna and MacDara.
Niamh was a primary teacher at Carysfort College. She later taught at an inner city school at the Oliver Bond complex, an experience which had a major effect on her socialist beliefs, leading to her decision to join the Labour Party.