Northern Ireland news

Church notified of changes to guidance after Bobby Storey funeral

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill at the funeral of Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A Catholic diocese has indicated it was only notified of changes to guidance restricting funeral Masses to 10 mourners after the burial of Bobby Storey on Tuesday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has faced calls to resign after she was one of several senior Sinn Féin figures who joined the funeral cortege in west Belfast while hundreds of people lined the road.

First Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday she should apologise and "make amends" for undermining the executive.

READ MORE: Analysis: Funeral fall-out may damage relations but institutions not under threat #Premium

Ms O'Neill insisted she stood over her actions, apart from a selfie alongside two men which "should not have happened".

"I am satisfied that my actions are within the regulations and the public health guidance," she said.

"I think it is unfortunate that a lot of the charges being levelled towards me are political point-scoring, as opposed to actually being about the rules."

Ms O'Neill said the cortege was limited to 30 while social distancing inside St Agnes's Church - where there more than 100 mourners - was "exemplary".

Michelle O'Neill speaking in Milltown Cemetery during the funeral

However, Church sources have said they understood that guidelines restricting funeral Masses to 10 people were still in place on Tuesday.

Churches were given the green light this week to reopen to larger numbers for public worship but the advice said this did not cover funerals, with updated guidance due to be issued this week.

The Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor said last night it told all involved in organising funerals at the start of June that attendance inside churches was restricted to 10 mourners.

"The diocese received notification of changes to the guidance concerning numbers attending funerals from the NI Executive Office yesterday evening, 30th June. This morning the diocese notified parishes of this updated guidance."

The Presbyterian Church also said it was stated at Monday's Stormont Covid-19 briefing, led by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, that the Executive "would be discussing weddings and funerals at its meeting on Thursday".

Sean Hughes, Sean Murray, Gerry Kelly and Gerry Adams carry the coffin of their friend Bobby Storey. Picture by Mal McCann

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