Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin pair step down from Stormont assembly

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has announced his resignation from the assembly, ending months of speculation about his future. Picture by Mal McCann

FORMER Stormont finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and one-time junior minister Megan Fearon are to step down from the assembly.

The resignation of Mr Ó Muilleoir comes after months of speculation over South Belfast MLA's future political career.

The west Belfast-born businessman previously stepped away from politics, only to return in 2011 and subsequently enjoy a successful year as his home city's lord mayor.

It has been speculated that Mr Ó Muilleoir plans to leave the north and settle in the United States.

"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent the people of South and West Belfast for Sinn Féin in both City Hall and Stormont," he said yesterday .

"But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists."

One of Mr Ó Muilleoir last acts as finance minister in 2017 was to order the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) public inquiry, which is due to report soon on the handling of the failed green energy scheme.

From Dromintee in her Newry and Armagh constituency, Ms Fearon joined the assembly in 2010 as the youngest public representative in Ireland.

She is understood to giving up her Stormont seat for personal reasons.

"Over the years this role has allowed me to meet the most inspiring people, make friends for life and have many unforgettable experiences," she said.

"Working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am. I will always be an activist, but my time in electoral politics has ended."

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald described both as "excellent MLAs".

"I have known both for many years and they are hardworking and dedicated representatives, committed to improving the quality of life for all," she said.

According to Sinn Féin, selection conventions aimed at nominating replacements for the departing MLAs will take place in the new year.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that former Sinn Féin election candidate Peter Doran has rejoined the Greens.

Mr Doran, a lecturer at Queen's University's School of Law, stood in Lagan Valley in the 2017 assembly election. Prior to his association with Sinn Féin, he was a Green Party member for more than 20 years, playing a lead role in establishing the party in the north.

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