English police chief to oversee Storey funeral investigation

Senior Cumbria Constabulary officer to review potential breaches of coronavirus regulations

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill attending the funeral of former IRA ‘enforcer’  Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill attending the funeral of former IRA ‘enforcer’ Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

A senior officer from the Cumbria Constabulary in England has been appointed to oversee an investigation by police in Northern Ireland into potential breaches of coronavirus regulations at the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey.

Hundreds turned out for the funeral of the IRA veteran in west Belfast on June 30th despite restrictions placed on the numbers that can attend outdoor gatherings.

Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill and finance minister Conor Murphy have been criticised for taking part in the funeral.

Last week, PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne said he had requested an external senior officer to oversee and direct the police investigation.

Chair of the national police chiefs’ council Martin Hewitt has now nominated Cumbria deputy chief constable Mark Webster for the task.

The investigation will also review events leading up to the date of the funeral.

Meanwhile, the North’s Police Ombudsman is considering a complaint from a member of the public regarding PSNI action leading up to the funeral.

The PSNI said in a statement: “Until a conclusion is reached on both matters, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be making no further comment.”

The row has caused a rift in the Stormont Assembly.

First minister Arlene Foster has pressed Sinn Féin, her party’s partners in government, for a “recognition that the credibility of messaging was damaged”.

Ms Foster and Ms O’Neill have not appeared together since the row.

MLAs passed a motion last week urging Ms O’Neill to apologise for attending the funeral during the pandemic.

The resolution was backed by the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Alliance — but does not have any practical legal effect.

Ms O’Neill has apologised “for grieving families experiencing more hurt”. - PA