The chairman of the West/North West Hospitals Group, Noel Daly, who had been accused of a conflict of interest by Sinn Féin, has resigned his position.

Mr Daly is a shareholder in a private healthcare firm that carried out a survey of maternity services for the group, which Sinn Féin claimed reflected a privatisation agenda.

In a statement tonight Mr Daly said he had chosen to step down because he did not want his personal and professional reputation or that of the group to be compromised in any way.

A statement from Minister for Health James Reilly said he shared those concerns and thanked Mr Daly for what he said was his considerable work with the Group.

Sources in the Department of Health insist that Mr Daly's departure was not linked to conflict of interest issues, but suggested there had been concerns about the perception of matters relating to procurement and commercial disclosure.

Last month the Minister for Health told the Seanad that a review by the HSE internal audit unit found that the procurement of services from Mr Dalys consultancy had not been in accordance with financial regulations.