Minutes show Foster saying she ‘can’t stand’ with O’Neill after Storey funeral

Minutes Show Foster Saying She ‘Can’t Stand’ With O’neill After Storey Funeral
Michelle O'Neill and other senior Sinn Féin politicians attended the funeral of Bobby Storey, despite lockdown restrictions limiting gatherings. Photo: PA
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By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Minutes from a fractious meeting of the Stormont Executive in 2020 show then first minister Arlene Foster saying she “can’t stand” on the same platform as Michelle O’Neill after the Sinn Féin minister’s attendance at the funeral of Bobby Storey.

The minutes show Ms O’Neill defending her attendance at the funeral, claiming there was “no dilution” of the public health message at the height of the pandemic.


The handwritten notes relate to a meeting of the Executive on July 2nd, 2020, which was the first gathering of ministers after the funeral.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Michelle O’Neill apologised for her attendance at the Bobby Storey funeral (Liam McBurney/PA)

The event sparked political controversy after then deputy first minister Ms O’Neill and other Sinn Féin ministers attended, despite lockdown restrictions limiting gatherings.


She apologised for her attendance during her appearance at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Tuesday.

The inquiry had originally been told the notes from the Executive meeting were not held.

However, last week the inquiry was informed by the Executive Office (TEO) that the notes had been located, and an extract has been uploaded on the inquiry’s website.

The minutes record Ms O’Neill referring to the Storey funeral and saying she “acted within regulations”.


The handwritten notes of her remarks continue: “Invited by family, honoured to do so

“Huge figure, knew thousands wd (would) wish to attend.”

Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022
The minutes show Arlene Foster saying the controversy over the Storey funeral had caused huge damage (Liam McBurney/PA)


The minutes record Ms O’Neill saying there were 30 people in the funeral cortege and adding: “Stewards – lined route to prevent people joining cortege.”

The note of Ms O’Neill’s comments to the meeting continued: “No dilution in my mind of public message.

“Not out of woods yet. Throughout crisis, have led from front, will continue.

“No offence intended.”


According to the minutes, former infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon of the SDLP said there needed to be an Executive response to the crisis.

She said: “We have all lost people.”

The minutes record that former economy minister Diane Dodds of the DUP said there was a “clear breach of regs (regulations) at B Storey funeral”.

The note continued: “Undermining work of Exec – absolutely disgraceful.

“dfm – need to express remorse for rule break at funeral.”

Coronavirus – Wed Nov 17, 2021
The minutes show Nichola Mallon saying there needed to be an Executive response after the funeral controversy (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, then the finance minister, said he had attended the funeral “on basis of regs (regulations)”.

The minutes record former DUP first minister Mrs Foster saying the controversy had caused “huge damage”.

She wrote: “dFM and I are leaders of Exec.

“More than 30 at funeral – cortege not same as funeral.”

The minutes continued: “Huge moment for Exec.

“Can’t stand on platform today with dfm and give out public message.

“Won’t just disappear.”

Baroness Foster is due to give evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday.

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