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Michelle O'Neill admits public health message has been undermined by Bobby Storey funeral attendance

DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the admission, which she said caused “deep hurt and anger”.

Michelle O'Neill pictured during the funeral of Bobby Storey at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.
Michelle O'Neill pictured during the funeral of Bobby Storey at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.
Image: PA Images

SINN FÉIN’S LEADER in the North Michelle O’Neill has admitted that Stormont’s public health message has been undermined by the Sinn Féin leadership’s attendance at Bobby Storey’s funeral.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and other prominent Sinn Féin politicians attended the funeral of Storey on 30 June.

O’Neill, who is the Stormont Executive’s deputy first minister, has faced heavy criticism over her decision to attend the funeral. The North’s Covid-19 pandemic regulations at the time stated that a maximum of 30 people were allowed to gather outdoors, with social distancing in place. 

Storey was a former leading IRA member died at the age of 64 following an unsuccessful lung transplant.

In an interview with RTÉ News, O’Neill acknowledged that the Stormont Executive’s public health messaging capacity had been undermined by the row.

It wasn’t my intention this would happen, but it did, I accept this and I regret this is the case.

“I accept that we have not been able to deliver clear messaging in the format that was the practice before this controversy.”

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In a statement, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the “The public messaging was significantly undermined as a result of attendance at the funeral by those who make the law and regulations.”

It is right that the Deputy First Minister has acknowledged the undermining of the public messaging as a result of what happened, and the deep hurt and anger that was caused as a result of Michelle O’Neill’s actions.
Those who set the rules must abide by the results.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tweeted: “Better late than never. Still nobody in Sinn Féin held personally accountable for this. People paying their respects in the street is understandable, but organised rally with speeches in Milltown Cemetery is not.”

In the Dáil today, Varadkar said Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty had also attended Milltown cemetery for a “political rally in the middle of a pandemic, organised by Sinn Féin and other republicans”. He asked if others in the party will express similar regret as O’Neill.

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