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Belfast council apologises to families refused entry to crematorium on same day as republican's funeral

It has emerged that eight families were told not to attend the cremation of their loved ones.

Mourners carry the coffin of former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey
Mourners carry the coffin of former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey
Image: Liam McBurney

BELFAST CITY COUNCIL has apologised to a number of families after it emerged that funeral arrangements for their loved ones were treated differently to those of veteran republican Bobby Storey last week.

An investigation by BBC Radio Northern Ireland’s The Nolan Show revealed that eight families were prevented from attending the cremation of their loved ones at the Roselawn crematorium last Tuesday, the same day that Storey was cremated there.

Although Storey’s family were allowed to attend his cremation, The Nolan Show discovered that the families of eight other individuals were asked to stay away.

Guidelines sent by Belfast City Council to all funeral directors in the North on Monday night said that no family should be allowed to bring 30 people to a cremation until 1 July.

However, it emerged that an exception was made for Storey’s family.

A statement from the council to the Nolan Show described the decision to make an exception for Storey as “operational”, and also contained an unreserved apology to the eight families.

The Nolan Show also reported that the council has started to contact the eight families involved last night in an attempt to apologise to them.

Storey’s funeral has been the subject of ongoing controversy in Northern Ireland, after Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was among large crowds who attended despite public health advice.

O’Neill is facing calls from the other four parties in the five-party Executive at Stormont to stand down from her role as joint head of government pending police and Assembly standards investigations into the scenes.

She has stood by her decision to go to the service for the senior republican, but apologised to bereaved families during lockdown for any hurt caused by scenes of hundreds of people lining the route.

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However, First Minister Arlene Foster said last week that the Sinn Féin MLA’s apology “fell short”.

Under Stormont regulations and guidance still displayed on official websites last week, friends of the deceased should only attend the funeral if none of the bereaved family members are attending.

While guidance around general church services was updated this week to allow congregations to return, with numbers dependent on the size of the church, there is dispute on whether this applied to funerals.

With reporting by Press Association.

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