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Probe into Storey funeral crowds ends with report sent to prosecutor

 

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former leader Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill attend the funeral of veteran republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former leader Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill attend the funeral of veteran republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former leader Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill attend the funeral of veteran republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A police investigation into potential breaches of coronavirus regulations at the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey in west Belfast has concluded.

Twenty-four people were interviewed and a file is set to be submitted to the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service today.

It is understood Deputy First Minister  Michelle O’Neill is among the 24 people who were interviewed by officers.

A number of senior Sinn Féin figures attended the funeral with around 2,000 others which saw a cortege pass through to the City Cemetery before a private cremation at Roselawn in the east of the city.

A number of senior party figures attended the funeral, which sparked a political crisis and halted the joint daily coronavirus press conferences between the deputy first minister and First Minister Arlene Foster for a time.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Linda Dillon also said she was one of those invited to attend an interview.

In a statement, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster from Cumbria who oversaw the probe, said: “I was appointed to independently examine the sequence of events surrounding the funeral of Bobby Storey on June 30 this year and alleged breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020.

“We have now interviewed 24 individuals suspected of having breached the r egulations and a file will be submitted to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on Friday December 18, 2020.

“I will not be making any further comment so as not to prejudice any future decision made by the PPS.”

Thousands lined the streets despite Northern Ireland being in lockdown during the first wave of coronavirus.

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Ms O’Neill apologised for the hurt caused to grieving families who were unable to hold a funeral because of the coronavirus restrictions. She said she obeyed the regulations at the funeral. However, she would never apologise for attending the funeral of a friend.

She later conceded the public health message had been undermined by her attendance.

A separate Belfast City Council investigation is under way into how 30 people were able to attend the private service at Roselawn while eight other families did not get the same access. The council apologised, describing it as an “error of judgment”.

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey welcomed the conclusion of the investigation, saying: “After months of unexplained and unacceptable delays, this announcement is a welcome development.”

He continued: “It is now critical that any files received by the PPS are examined rigorously with a view to holding those responsible for flagrant breaches of the law accountable through the courts.

“You cannot make the laws and then break the laws. No one is above the law. We must all be equal under the law.

“It is evidently in the public interest that prosecutions follow."

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