Fearon resigns from frontline politics
By Diarmúid Pepper
Sinn Féin’s Megan Fearon is to step down from the Northern Ireland Assembly in the coming weeks.
The Dromintee native became Stormont’s youngest MLA when she took over the role from Conor Murphy in 2012.
At the time, Murphy had stepped down as part of Sinn Féin’s decision to phase out double jobbing.
When Fearon took up the role of MLA for Newry and Armagh, Murphy dismissed concerns over her youthful age, saying: “I am delighted to endorse this bright, energetic and intelligent young woman.
“I know that going into the assembly will be something completely new to Megan and, while this would daunt many of Megan’s age, I am confident that she will rise admirably to any challenges set.”
Fearon would go on to serve as Junior Minister to Martin McGuinness in The Executive Office, but this was short lived as the Executive was suspended seven months later.
She said that she was “hesitant about accepting the role because of the magnitude of the task” but added that McGuinness had “great confidence” in her ability to step up to the role.
Fearon said she was glad she accepted the position and that she had “never met someone who was more passionate, hard-working and driven than Martin McGuinness”.
Fearon was also a Sinn Féin spokesperson on equality and social justice. In a statement announcing her decision to step down as an MLA, she said that “working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am”.
As part of her drive for equality, she actively supported LGBT campaigns as an MLA and was a speaker at the first ever Trans-Pride rally for gender equality in Belfast.
At a previous Belfast Pride Festival, she said that tolerance towards the LGBT community is not enough and that acceptance is required.
Fearon has been an MLA for seven years and said it has been an honour to represent Sinn Féin and the people of south Armagh.
In a statement, she said: “I am excited to begin a new chapter in life and I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey.”
Responding to Ms Fearon’s announcement, Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said that she was a “tireless advocate for equality, justice, and liberty”.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said that he is “confident that we can move things forward” in Stormont.
Both the Irish and UK governments say that devolution must be restored by January 13th and that the Northern Ireland Secretary will call for a snap Assembly election if this is not the case.