'At the funeral and mass I kept to the regulations as I have advised others to do' - Michelle O'Neill
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has apologised for the hurt caused by photographs of “busy pathways” at the funeral of Bobby Storey in west Belfast earlier this week.
The party has been caught up in controversy over social distancing concerns at the funeral and photographs from the funeral in west Belfast showed hundreds lining streets.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, her predecessor Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O'Neill, the party's finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, and MLAs Conor Murphy and Gerry Kelly, were among the mourners.
The PSNI is conducting an investigation over the social distancing concerns.
“Can I firstly say that I am acutely conscious of everyone who has lost a loved one and buried them in the most difficult and heart-breaking and lonely of circumstances at the heart of the pandemic,” the party leader said on Newstalk Breakfast.
“The very fact that people could not have church services if that is what they wished or even enter cemeteries or crematoriums was incredibly, incredibly hard.
“Can I also say that I do understand that looking at the images of very busy pathways in west Belfast and taking all of that in obviously has jolted and has caused some hurt among some of those families and for that I am very sorry.
“That certainly would never have been my intention or Michelle’s intention or, let it be said, the intention of the Storey family as they laid Bobby to rest."
While the DUP has called on Sinn Féin Vice President and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill to step down, in a statement this morning, she said that she kept to all regulations at the funeral, despite a photograph of her taking a selfie with supporters has circulated online.
“If the regulations had prevented me from attending his funeral I would have obeyed those regulations.
“At the funeral and mass I kept to the regulations as I have advised others to do.
“The PSNI will look into all of this,” she said.
She also said she was sorry for grieving families experiencing “more hurt”.
“I have listened carefully to the voices of those who have lost loved ones.
“No family’s grief is more important than another.
“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,” she said.