Arlene Foster DUP - Northern Ireland First Minister

Arlene Foster Rejects Michelle O’Neill Apology As Tensions Are Ratcheted

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Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster says Sinn Féin apology regarding the funeral of IRA man Bobby Storey ‘falls short‘.

Foster also says it’s undermined the messaging from the Executive on the Coronavirus.

The Sinn Féin leadership attended the funeral of former IRA leader Bobby Storey on Tuesday along with hundreds of mourners who lined the streets.

Many of those were not social distancing and there’s been criticism of Sinn Féin members for being in pictures and selfies at the event.

In a statement this evening the North’s First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster said it’s undermined the credibility of the messaging from the Executive on the Coronavirus.

She said there has been no recognition that rules and guidelines were broken.

“Sinn Féin has been forced to make this statement by the reaction of people from all faiths and none.

“This has never been an Orange and Green issue as some would try to paint it.

“It is right to apologise for the hurt inflicted on many, many people but sadly there is no acknowledgement from the deputy first minister that this hurt has been caused by her actions.

“She let people down by her actions and those of her ministerial team.”

“There has been no recognition that regulations and guidelines were broken and the deputy first minister cannot escape that reality.

“There is no escaping the fact that trust and the creditability of the executive messaging has been totally undermined by the deputy first minister and that has not been rectified by today’s comments.”

She added: “There are a number of complaints that we, and others, have lodged.

“Investigations are now underway and need to examine these matters.”

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill says she did not intend to upset people who have not been able to attend the funerals of their own loved ones:

“I am particularly concerned that grieving families, who have lost a loved one during the pandemic had their heartache compounded by the necessary restrictions which were in place at that time.

“Not being able to have their family and friends’ support to help them through was hugely difficult.

“I am also concerned that those grieving families are experiencing more hurt over recent days. I am sorry for that.”

Mary Lou McDonald has said every effort was gone to to ensure social distancing at the event.

However the PSNI has denied they were deeply involved in the planning as had been suggested by Sinn Féin.

The police are investigating the event in relation to breaches of public health advice.

Other parties have also criticised Michelle O’Neill’s statement, with the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood saying it falls short and is only a half apology