No charges recommended over ‘Covid breaches’ at Bobby Storey funeral

ireland
No Charges Recommended Over ‘Covid Breaches’ At Bobby Storey Funeral
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the funeral of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images
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By Rebecca Black and David Young, PA

Prosecutors in Northern Ireland have not recommended the prosecution of any individuals – including Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill – for alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations last year at the funeral of a senior republican, Stormont sources have indicated.

Ms O’Neill was among those interviewed by police over the scenes at Bobby Storey’s funeral in west Belfast in June.

The Public Prosecution Service has considered police evidence files on 24 people, including several senior members of Sinn Fein.

Breaches of Covid-19 regulations are summary offences which are punishable by fines.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former party leader Gerry Adams, and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attending the funeral. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

The funeral of former IRA leader Mr Storey has been one of the most controversial events of the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland.

More than 1,000 people lined the streets for the funeral procession at a time when strict limits on such events were in place.

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The attendance of Sinn Féin leaders at the funeral and a subsequent memorial event at nearby Milltown Cemetery sparked a major political row at Stormont, with the republican party accused of disregarding rules they set for the rest of society.

Ms O’Neill, party president Mary Lou McDonald, former president Gerry Adams, Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy, TD Pearse Doherty, Policing Board members Gerry Kelly and Linda Dillon, and MLA Martina Anderson were among senior republicans who attended.

A crowd at the funeral. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

It is understood the police files considered by the PPS did not feature individuals resident in the Irish Republic.

Mr Storey was not buried at Milltown but was instead cremated at Roselawn Cemetery on the other side of Belfast in a separate event which generated its own controversy.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland commissioned Mark Webster, Deputy Chief Constable of Cumbria Police, to oversee its investigation into the events around the funeral.

Commanders sought external direction as those who attended the funeral included Sinn Fein members of the Policing Board, which is the police’s oversight body.

The PPS is also expected to make public decisions over alleged breaches of regulations at three other funerals, including that of former Sinn Féin councillor Francie McNally in Co Tyrone in April 2020.

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