Northern Ireland

Hundreds gather in west Belfast for funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey

The funeral of republican Bobby Story makes its way to Milltown for burial Picture Mal McCann.
The funeral of republican Bobby Story makes its way to Milltown for burial Picture Mal McCann.

VETERAN republican Bobby Storey has been remembered as an IRA man who helped to build Sinn Féin into the political party it is today.

Hundreds of mourners gathered in west Belfast yesterday to pay their respects to Mr Storey as his remains were transported to St Agnes' Church for a funeral service conducted by Father Gary Donegan.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, Finance minister Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald and former Sinn Féin chief Gerry Adams were among those who took part.

Mr Storey died earlier this month at the age of 64 following an unsuccessful lung transplant.

A guard of honour which included former Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson lined the streets of Andersonstown with black flags erected along the cortège route.

The coffin was draped in an Irish tricolour. Other high profile republican figures attending included senior republican Sean Hughes and Sean 'Spike' Murray.

A highly influential presence within his community throughout the Troubles, Mr Storey was also a key player in the peace process.

Police maintained a low key presence in the area during proceedings.

Fr Donegan reflected on how Mr Storey had grown up in north Belfast where his family were intimidated from their home.

He also described him as "devoted" to his partner Teresa and the delight he took in his children and grandchildren.

Following the service, the guard of honour continued for just over a mile to Milltown Cemetery where there was spontaneous applause as the procession passed.

A large crowd gathered at the republican plot in the historic graveyard where Mr Adams and Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly were among those who helped carry the coffin.

Donegal TD Pearse Doherty described Mr Storey as an "inspirational republican leader", before Ms O'Neill read the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken in his memory.

Mr Adams delivered the main oration during which he credited Mr Storey with building Sinn Féin to the size and influence it has today.

The former party president said that when released from jail for the final time in 1998, Mr Storey was 44 years-old and had spent more than 20 years of his life in prison.

He went on to quote him saying "a life of struggle is a life well lived", before telling those gathered that Sinn Féin was and remains "proud" of those who were involved in the IRA.

"We are proud and glad that Bob and other former IRA volunteers are part of what we are," he said.

"We are also proud of Bob and the others when they were IRA Volunteers.

"They and their support base and republican Ireland defeated the British Army. They brought us and their political masters to the negotiating table."

Mr Adams went on to describe Mr Storey's death as a "huge political blow for republicans", adding: "There is a void in our lives.