Northern Ireland news

Council meeting over Bobby Storey Roselawn cremation to be broadcast live

Roselawn Cemetery. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE Chief Constable is to bring in a senior external police officer to oversee an independent investigation into Bobby Storey's funeral.

Simon Byrne said they would look at any potential breaches of coronavirus restrictions.

He added that the PSNI was also in receipt of a complaint from a member of the public regarding police actions leading up to the funeral. This has been forwarded to the Police Ombudsman.

A debate on whether an independent inquiry will be ordered into Belfast City Council's handling of Mr Storey's cremation will be broadcast live this afternoon.

It comes as the council's chief executive Suzanne Wylie and strategic director Nigel Grimshaw reportedly threatened to resign if an external investigation was ordered.

The senior officials took the unprecedented step this week of personally apologising "wholeheartedly and unreservedly" to eight families who were not allowed to hold services at the council's Roselawn crematorium on the same day as Mr Storey's relatives.

The statement, released through a private public relations firm rather than the council's own press office, said the "facts of the case" would be in a report to councillors, which "will clarify the sequence of events that took place, and what measures the council will take to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again".

Ms Wylie and Mr Grimshaw, former PSNI Belfast Area Commander, said "the constant change in guidance and legislation... required us to make rapid decisions on many fronts, and in a very complex political landscape".

They also said they were "concerned about certain statements and comments that have been made, and the impact these may have on our roles in Belfast City Council", which would be formally raised with party leaders and the chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

The BBC's Nolan Show reported yesterday the the officers had warned some councillors in recent days they would resign if an external investigation was ordered.

It was also claimed they have lodged a grievance procedure within the council.

Unionist pressure has mounted over the Roselawn controversy, with the Independent Orange Order the latest group to raise concerns yesterday.

The council has said it will refund cremation fees to the eight families affected and help to facilitate a memorial service at a later date.

It also denied claims that staff of a leading funeral director's were told they had to vacate Roselawn by noon on July 30.

Sandy Row pastor Rev Paul Burns said they were told a "technical safety inspection was being done" and there was "a lot of hurt".

A council spokeswoman said the allegation was "not true".

Today's special council meeting is happening at 3pm and will be on the local authority's live webcast.

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