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Sinn Féin Defend Attendance at Bobby Storey Funeral

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Senior Sinn Féin figures have been criticised for participating in the funeral ceremonies in Belfast yesterday for veteran republican Bobby Storey.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill and TD Pearse Doherty were among estimated 1,800 who attended the commemorations, despite Covid-19 emergency restrictions.

Police are investigating potential breaches of coronavirus lockdown rules that restrict outdoor public gatherings to 30 people in Northern Ireland.

The former leading IRA member died earlier this month at the age of 64 following an unsuccessful lung transplant.

Sinn Féin leaders and past president Gerry Adams were among hundreds on the Andersonstown Road area on Tuesday morning as the cortege travelled to St Agnes’ church.

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster criticised her colleague in Stormont, that of the North’s Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill of whom there were calls for her to reign over the events yesterday.

Mrs Foster said “She needs to apologise and recognise the wrong that has been done, and she absolutely needs to make amends for what happened yesterday and take steps to try and build up that credibility again”.

“Many people have had to go to through mourning and grief during this time and haven’t had the comfort of people coming to their homes, they haven’t had the comfort of a full service, yesterday they asked ‘well, why was that the case?”

Meanwhile Secretary of State Brandon Lewis questioned the attendance of Ms O’Neill and other Sinn Fein executive ministers.

“I was a bit surprised… when you are saying to people ‘you’ve got to follow those guidelines”

“People have given so many sacrifices over the last couple of months, particularly in Northern Ireland where we have seen people really strongly following the guidelines, we’ve seen lower levels of things because people are following those guidelines so well.”

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “I can understand people’s frustrations. It’s not something I would have done.”

However O’Neill insisted everything was done “in accordance with the guidelines”.

“Regrettably a considerable number of family members were unable to take part in the cortege as a result of the current restrictions, like many other families who have been unable to properly grieve or mourn the loss of a loved one in a traditional way as a result of the Covid crisis,” she told the Irish News.