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PSNI chief constable requests external police officer to investigate Bobby Storey funeral attendance

The PSNI has previously said that it would review footage taken at the funeral.

The funeral procession of senior republican Bobby Storey following the funeral at St Agnes' Church in west Belfast
The funeral procession of senior republican Bobby Storey following the funeral at St Agnes' Church in west Belfast
Image: Liam McBurney via PA Images

Updated Jul 9th 2020, 10:40 PM

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE of the PSNI has requested the appointment of an external senior police officer to oversee the force’s investigation into potential breaches of Northern Ireland’s coronavirus legislation at republican Bobby Storey’s funeral on 30 June. 

The PSNI has previously said that it would review footage taken at the funeral and would consider any suspected breaches of Northern Ireland’s coronavirus legislation. 

In a statement today, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne confirmed that he has asked for an external senior police officer to lead the investigation into potential breaches. 

“I have advised the Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board that I have spoken to Martin Hewitt (Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council) to request the appointment of an external senior Police Officer to oversee and direct the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s investigation of potential breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 at a funeral which took place on 30 June 2020,” Byrne said. 

“I have taken this decision to ensure independent oversight of the investigation,” he said.

Byrne also confirmed that the PSNI is “in receipt of a complaint from a member of the public regarding police actions leading up to the funeral on 30 June 2020″. 

“This has now been forwarded to the Police Ombudsman for her consideration,” he said.

Sinn Féin attendance

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Stormont’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill and other prominent Sinn Féin politicians attended the funeral of Storey on 30 June. 

Since the funeral, O’Neill has faced heavy criticism over her decision to attend.

She was met with 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 in west Belfast when hundreds lined the streets for the funeral.

McDonald and O’Neill both apologised for any hurt caused to grieving families seeing large crowds at the funeral.

In a press conference, O’Neill said she would never apologise for attending Storey’s funeral.

“I will never apologise for attending the funeral of my friend,” she said, while also acknowledging that some families had been left upset.

“I would never set out to hurt any family or compound their grief at such a sad time,” she said.

“In terms of my attendance at the funeral, I am confident I can stand over the fact I worked within the guidelines and I worked within the regulations in terms of attending a requiem mass, which was allowed, and also to walk in a funeral cortege of up to 30 people.”

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Following discussions with the leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland, DUP leader Arlene Foster criticised the deputy first minister “for [letting] people down by her actions”. 

“It is right to apologise for the hurt inflicted on many, many people but sadly there is no acknowledgement from the deputy first minister that this hurt has been caused by her actions,” she said.

In a statement this evening, DUP Policing Board group leader Mervyn Storey MLA said that Foster and his policing board colleagues met with the Chief Constable yesterday. 

“We were concerned about the perceptions around the PSNI’s independence to investigate the Bobby Storey funeral as well as other issues,” Storey said. 

“It is entirely sensible and appropriate that the Chief Constable has appointed an external officer to lead the investigation,” he said. 

“The scenes in west Belfast and at Roselawn left many feeling there were two tiers in the legal system. It is vital that this investigation sends a clear message that no one is above the law and we are all equally subject to the law,” he added. 

“Restoring credibility to the Covid-19 regulations will be a long road but the police has a key role to play.”

Includes reporting by Press Association

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