Northern Ireland

Conor Murphy standing down as economy minister on ‘medical grounds’

Sinn Féin minister is to be replaced in role by Deirdre Hargey, the party has confirmed

A prominent Stormont minister will not appear at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry as scheduled
Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, who is stepping down as Stormont's economy minister. PICTURE: PA (Niall Carson/PA)

Conor Murphy is stepping down as Stormont’s economy minister on “medical grounds”, Sinn Féin has said.

News that the minister was standing down from the role came a day after the UK Covid Inquiry sitting in Belfast was advised he would not be appearing to give evidence following advice from a doctor after medical tests.

The 60-year-old took up the role as minister of the Department for the Economy in February following the restoration of the power-sharing assembly which the DUP collapsed in 2022.

Mr Murphy, a MLA for Newry and Armagh, had previously served as economy minister from 2020 when the New Decade New Approach deal restored Stormont following Sinn Féin’s 2017 collapse of power-sharing.

He was also Stormont’s regional development minister from 2007 to 2011.

Within the last week Mr Murphy had carried out engagements including speaking at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards and meeting members of the Northern Ireland Skills Council advisory body in Belfast.

In a statement on Wednesday evening First Minister and Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said South Belfast MLA Deirdre Hargey was taking up the role of economy minister “on an interim basis pending Conor’s return”.

Ms Hargey had served as Stormont’s communities minister between 2020 and 2022.

“Conor Murphy is standing down as Minister tonight on medical grounds,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Conor has been advised by his doctor to rest and will undergo further medical tests. My colleagues and I all wish Conor a full and speedy recovery.”

On Tuesday, Ms O’Neill revealed Mr Murphy would not be attending that day’s Covid Inquiry sitting.

He had also been due to attend a sitting of the assembly on Tuesday, and Ms O’Neill said her party colleague had advised Speaker Edwin Poots last Friday that he would not be attending.

In a post to the X platform, Stormont’s SDLP opposition leader Matthew O’Toole said Mr Murphy was “absolutely right to prioritise his health and hope to see him back at his desk and in the chamber when he’s ready”.

UUP leader Doug Beattie said in a post wished Mr Murphy well adding he hope he “makes a speedy recovery”.