Senator Currie, who is the daughter of SDLP co-founder Austin Currie, has said the attendance of high-profile party members at the funeral of the former leading IRA member in Belfast in June was part of a lost opportunity for partnership in the North presented by a shared fight against Covid-19.
The Fine Gael Senator’s comments come as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar called for Sinn Féin resignations over the incident yesterday in light of the recent high-profile resignations caused by the Golfgate scandal.
The funeral saw more than a thousand people gather together to pay their respects while Covid-19 regulations stated no more than 30 people could gather outdoors.
Even in a pandemic when the whole world is saying we are in it together, Sinn Féin unapologetically put tribal politics first.
“The coming together of green and orange to fight Covid-19 was an opportunity for real partnership and joint leadership, when too often identity politics keep them apart,” Senator Currie said.
"Sinn Fein compromised that opportunity entirely by putting the celebration of a leading figure in the violent republican community before the needs of the entire community.”
The Senator described attendance at the funeral as a show of tribal politics: "Even in a pandemic when the whole world is saying we are in it together, Sinn Féin unapologetically put tribal politics first.
"The Storey funeral event was a kick in the stomach to anyone truly committed to reconciliation.”
Several high-profile members of Sinn Féin attended the funeral, including leader Mary Lou McDonald and the Stormont Executive’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill.
Ms O’Neill’s attendance at the event caused tension with her powersharing partner in the Stormont Executive, DUP leader Arlene Foster, and caused joint public press conferences by the heads of the North’s administration to come to a halt over the summer.
Ms O’Neill recently expressed regret and acknowledged the funeral undermined public health advice, yesterday sharing a post-Executive meeting platform with Ms Foster for the first time in more than two months.
The inquiry by the PSNI will shed light on any laws that were broken but there is no pretence, in the North, that it was an ordinary funeral.
"The First Minister and Deputy First Minister yesterday shared a public platform together for the first time in three months - months after the executive reformed in January of this year after a three year collapse,” Senator Currie said.
“The news that Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has acknowledged her and Sinn Féin's role in undermining public health messaging by attending the Bobby Storey funeral event in June, is an important step in owning up to the hurt felt in Northern Ireland.”
“The inquiry by the PSNI will shed light on any laws that were broken but there is no pretence, in the North, that it was an ordinary funeral.”
Senator Currie said Sinn Féin’s attendance at the gathering “seriously damaged” the process of reconciliation on the island of Ireland: "Missing from reports about the event is the impact it had on the process of reconciliation in the North.
"The Good Friday Agreement has, at its heart, institutions that bring together different identities to make and influence decisions as one, to try to build an inclusive community... If Sinn Féin really believes in a shared island, reconciliation needs to come first.”