NOT so long ago, Conor Murphy had a reputation for being a safe pair of hands. He was viewed as the best and the brightest of Sinn Fein's ministerial team.
Indeed, many observers felt he was wrongly passed over when Martin McGuinness stepped down. Now, he is very much his party's weakest link at Stormont. Tory austerity can be blamed for many things, but lockdown isn't one of them, as Murphy suggested last week. It's far from his first howler.
With the PPE and Paul Quinn controversies in March, this is the third time in just five months that he's been at the centre of negative headlines entirely of his own making.
In any other party, somebody would have a cautionary word in his ear. But Murphy's South Armagh background makes that highly unlikely.
The finance minister made his controversial comments on lockdown to Radio Ulster this week. Anybody can over-speak or clumsily phrase something during a live interview.
Except this wasn't a one-off, as Finance Committee members pointed out. Conor Murphy had form on spouting this guff.
A fortnight earlier, he had told the Assembly: "We have had nine years of austerity, and this is why we needed a lockdown. It is because we have a health department that is not able to cope with a significant health crisis."
Has healthcare here been criminally under-funded? Yes, and it goes back much further than nine years under Johnson, May and Cameron. Margaret Thatcher set out to destroy the NHS.
A new management class that hadn't existed before was introduced, and Thatcher embarked on a course of privatisation by stealth.
Has Tory austerity cost lives? Absolutely. Conor Murphy would be on rock solid territory if he blamed it for our shameful waiting lists - on which people die - and for our abysmal mental health services.
But every country in Europe, bar Sweden, went into lockdown. It was introduced in countries which spend a far higher proportion of their GDP on healthcare than us.
It wouldn't have mattered if the NHS was funded 100 times more than it is. We went into lockdown because coronavirus is highly infectious and we knew - and still know - so little about how to successfully treat it.
Even if our health service was financed to the gills, we would have needed lockdown to keep people from catching Covid-19. Because nobody wants to be lying in an ICU bed, struggling to breathe, no matter how well-staffed or equipped the hospital might be. They want to avoid getting coronavirus in the first place.
Conor Murphy later issued a 'clarification' tweet, but he did not retract his bizarre claim linking lockdown to Tory austerity, which is at odds with the scientific community.
Former British government adviser, Professor Neil Ferguson (inset, top) of Imperial College London, told MPs last Wednesday that introducing lockdown a week earlier could have halved the UK's death toll.
Sinn Fein was spot-on in its early insistence that we shouldn't blindly follow a flawed Westminster strategy that would cost lives.
So much of the party's Covid-19 response has been right.
But it needs to tell its finance minister to cut the claptrap and follow the science.