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Coronavirus: Leading Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy fights for life

Solicitor had recently returned from USA as it emerges young dad (28) also in coma with virus

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Niall Murphy is battling Covid-19. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Niall Murphy is battling Covid-19. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Niall Murphy is battling Covid-19. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Top Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy is fighting for his life after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

The 43-year-old solicitor, who had recently been in New York, is in an induced coma and on a ventilator in a city hospital.

A 28-year-old dad from north Belfast is also in a coma at the city's Mater Hospital as his family pray he can beat the coronavirus which is now wreaking havoc across Northern Ireland.

Father-of-three Mr Murphy is a partner in the leading Belfast law firm KRW Law and a director of the Relatives For Justice victims' campaign group.

He took ill after returning from a St Patrick's Day function in New York and was diagnosed with Covid-19. The 2002 All-Ireland winning Antrim junior hurler is understood to have told people before he took really ill that he thought he had picked up the virus on the plane or at the airport.

Just two weeks ago he was acting for a family of a child recovering from severe illness which was challenging Stomont education minister Peter Weir's decision not to immediately close Northern Ireland's schools as the coronavirus crisis deepened.

Kevin Winters, on behalf of KRW Law, last night urged people who know Niall to send him a message of support on Monday.

He said: "His condition remains critical but stable. We have invited people to send him and his family messages of support on Monday.

"All of us hope and pray that Niall's well-known battling qualities will see him through what is a very difficult time for him and his family.

"He would want everyone to keep themselves and their families and NHS staff safe by following advice to stay home and avoid the spread of this awful virus.

"In particular as a GAA mentor he would want young people to stay indoors and use social media to keep in touch with friends and family."

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Niall Murphy has often represented victims of the Troubles (PA)

Niall Murphy has often represented victims of the Troubles (PA)

Niall Murphy has often represented victims of the Troubles (PA)

Mr Murphy is a former player and current official with St Enda's GAA club in Glengormley and chairman of Club Aontroma which raises funds in support of gaelic games in Antrim.

The club and Relatives for Justice last night posted a statement asking everyone who knows him to send a message of support to him and his family on Monday to his work office email account which is niallm@kevinrwinters.com.

Mr Murphy is a high-profile legal figure who featured in the acclaimed fllm No Stone Unturned about the UVF's massacre at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland in 1994.

In 2019 he represented the film's journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in a successful legal challenge against police search warrants.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was among hundreds of people who posted messages of support last night, saying: "Solidarity with Niall Murphy and his family."

North Belfast Sinn Fein MP John Finucane described him as "my good friend as well as a fellow Gael and solicitor". He added: "Can't think of anyone better to have a fight on their hands and looking forward to seeing him soon."

Also fighting for his life is a young father with a baby from the Ardoyne area of the city.

The 28-year-old is on a ventilator at the Mater Hospital after being put in an induced coma to help his lungs fight off the virus as well as viral pneumonia.

His shell-shocked family took to social media to beg people to take Covid-19 seriously and pray for him.

His sister said: "I don't think the severity of this virus will dawn on people until it comes knocking on their own doors. My big brother is now in ICU on a ventilator with it and our hearts are just absolutely broken.

"Please, please, please for the love of God, stay at home unless it is an absolute necessity to go out, absolutely sickens me people going about like nothing is wrong and completely disregarding government guidelines that are there for a purpose."

On Saturday it emerged that two further people with coronavirus have died in Northern Ireland, taking the region's death toll to 15.

There were 49 new positive cases of Covid-19 reported on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland to 324, according to the Public Health Agency. The Republic of Ireland recorded its highest daily death toll in the coronavirus outbreak, with 14 people having lost their lives in 24 hours, bringing the total number of victims to 36. Another 294 cases of coronavirus were reported on Saturday, bringing to 2,415 the number of confirmed cases in Ireland. The median age of the 14 people who died was 81.

Meanwhile, Belfast pastor Lee McClelland, who was last weekend fighting for his life, was allowed to return home on Friday.

"I'm home. What a joy it is to walk through the doors and see my family, to be able to give them a big hug and for them to be able to give me a big hug," he said on a video posted on the Ark Church's Facebook page.

"There are things in life that are just so precious, and family is precious.

"Thank God that I am home. I'm still weak, I'm still battling, I'm still fighting. I can still feel the battle wounds from Covid-19. I've a long road still ahead of me but praise God I'm alive." He also thanked God for the doctors, nursing staff, cleaners, porters and every person in the NHS who helped him and he prayed for them to be protected as they put themselves on the frontline.

Earlier in the week, Pastor McClelland had described the disease as the "virus from hell", saying: "You can literally feel it trying to suck the life right out of you."

Yesterday police here expressed concern about reports of people visiting popular beaches in Co Down amid the ongoing restrictions on movement.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said officers had received reports of people visiting Tyrella and Murlough beaches in Co Down and the nearby town of Newcastle.

"The public should be well aware of the advice from our public health partners and the Government about social distancing and movement and, on that basis, we would encourage people not to drive to local beauty spots for their daily exercise as others may have the same idea and social distancing may not be achievable," he said.

On Friday, doctors appealed for a complete lockdown in Northern Ireland amid fears not enough is being done to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Stormont has faced criticism over a delay in publishing a definitive list of essential businesses, amid claims it has created confusion around which can and cannot remain open. The list is expected at some point over the weekend.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said the agri-food and retail sectors were part of the "frontline response" to the crisis. "They deserve the thanks of the entire community for working around the clock to put food on our tables," she said. "While many in the community can work at home, they continue to clock-on at farms, factories and shops. Therefore these workers must be protected in the workplace, all employers have a duty to ensure that they are. Their safety is non-negotiable and each of us has a duty to protect ourselves and keep those around us safe."

Belfast Telegraph