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Taoiseach and Pearse Doherty clash over champagne gathering and Bobby Storey funeral

Micheál Martin said Sinn Féin has still not apologised for attending the funeral gathering in 2020. / YouTube

THERE WERE HEATED scenes in the Dáil today when Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty rounded on the Taoiseach over the report into the champagne gathering that took place in the Department of Foreign Affairs last year. 

The review into the gathering, conducted by Foreign Affairs Secretary General Joe Hackett, said it has “caused offence” and that then secretary general Niall Burgess was “largely responsible for facilitating the breach of social distance guidance that occurred”.

It subsequently ordered Burgess to make a €2,000 donation to a Covid-19 charity, while three other officials are to also make a €1,000 donation to a charity providing assistance to people affected by the virus.

Doherty called on the Taoiseach to carry out an independent review into the matter, something Micheál Martin said he would not be doing. 

Doherty also called for Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to come before the Dáil to answer questions on the matter. 

Martin said he is “satisfied with the investigation” that took place, stating that what took place within the department that evening was “wrong and shouldn’t have happened”. 

However, he said he was taken aback by Doherty’s “tone and attitude on this one” accusing Doherty and his party members of inviting a crowd of 2,000 onto the streets for the funeral of Bobby Storey in 2020.

The Taoiseach said everyone else on the island was limited to having 30 people at a funeral.

The funeral of senior IRA figure Bobby Storey drew hundreds of people on to the streets. A number of Sinn Féín members attended the funeral at a time.

Sinn Fein party president Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and former party president Gerry Adams, as well as Doherty, were among high-profile party members who were in attendance at the service and later a commemoration event at Milltown cemetery.

In July 2020, Doherty defended attending the funeral after images showed a large crowd lining the streets. 

He said at the time that he believed the funeral “of a friend of ours who has passed away” was being politicised. 

Martin told Doherty in the Dáil today that to the best of his knowledge neither “you or your organisation has ever admitted that you were wrong”. 

“Yet you lecture everybody else… there is one law for Sinn Féin, and one law for everybody else,” he said. 

A number of other Government TDs and senators have taken to social media to make similar comparisons today. 

Doherty said it is disgraceful that the Taoiseach was comparing a “champagne party with a funeral”, stating that there is a grieving family to think about.  

“I am telling the home truths, I don’t like doing it,” added Martin. 

He said those civil servants in the Department of Foreign Affairs are “public servants who are given a long service to the State, they have admitted they were wrong and they’ve apologised for one minute in the breach of social distancing guidance,” he said. 

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