05 Oct 2022

PSNI will review footage from Bobby Storey funeral for breaches of Coronavirus regulations

Health Minister Robin Swann believes there were breaches and hopes it doesn't undermine the public health message

PSNI will review footage from Bobby Storey funeral for breaches of Coronavirus regulations

The PSNI has said it will 'review footage' from today's funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey to determine whether any breaches of Coronavirus regulations occurred.

Sinn Féin politicians have faced criticism for attending the funeral.

The funeral in west Belfast attracted hundreds of mourners despite Coronavirus regulations stating that a maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend funeral services.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former leader Gerry Adams, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Derry MLA Martina Anderson were amongst those in attendance.

East Derry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said it will have felt like a 'kick in the teeth' to families who have observed the guidance in recent months. 

When asked about the funeral at the daily Coronavirus press briefing Health Minister Robin Swann said 'very clearly' regards it as a breach.

Mr Swann said he's concerned with what he saw in west Belfast and 'we can't let any part of NI become another Leicester where we have to look at regional lockdowns'.

He added: "In regards to a breach I believe the PSNI has been asked to investigate that, but what I would say, is a very clear and simple message, there's no person or point of privilege above the guidance and regulations that we have laid down and how we combat COVID-19 in NI.

"I do hope that what we saw today does not undermine the public message that has worked so well in Northern Ireland that has actually got us to the position we're are today."

When asked about the funeral during Monday's Coronavirus briefing at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill said: "Everyone who is attending the funeral should observe the public health advice."

There have been a number of events which have been criticised for attracting crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month the PSNI said there had been social-distancing breaches at funerals in both the unionist and nationalist communities.

On June 6, police handed out 57 fines to Black Lives Matter protestors in Derry and also issued fines at a BLM rally in Belfast.

In a statement about today's funeral, PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones said: "We were made aware of the plans for today’s funeral and have engaged with the celebrant and service organisers to highlight both the public health advice and risks around Covid-19, and the requirement for those attending to adhere to social distancing.

"We had assurances that those attending would observe the health guidelines and that marshals would be in place to encourage those lining the cortege route to observe social distancing.

“We will now review footage gathered during the funeral and will consider any suspected breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations NI 2020.”

Government guidance states that funerals should be private and up to a maximum of 30 people.

This figure does not include funeral directors or other people needed to officiate at the service, such as faith/pastoral representatives, grave diggers and so on.

It can include members of the person’s household, close family members, if the deceased has neither household nor family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to be there.

Social distancing must be practised at all times, which means numbers attending funerals may be restricted further in smaller enclosed places.

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