Northern Ireland news

Families of loved ones not permitted full funerals 'retraumatised' by crowds of mourners for Bobby Storey

Brendan Kerr, a popular chef who lived in Culcavy near Hillsborough, died suddenly in April as a result of a brain haemorrhage

The mother of a Co Down man who died suddenly two months ago has said images of large crowds at Bobby Storey's funeral have "retraumatised" her after she was unable to give her son a full send-off.

Lily Kerr, a former head of bargaining at the Unison trade union, was left devastated in April when her son Brendan, a father-of-two, died from a brain haemorrhage.

The popular chef was found at his home in Culcavy near Hillsborough.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the north Belfast mother and political commentator was not allowed to give her son a full funeral.

READ MORE: Church notified of changes to guidance after Bobby Storey funeral

No wake was allowed, the coffin was not allowed to be open, there was no service and the remains were taken straight to Roselawn Crematorium from the funeral home.

Ms Kerr was only allowed to travel as close as the gates of the crematorium.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, the mother-of-five said the scenes at Bobby Storey's funeral would prove hurtful to people like her.

"We loved our loved ones and we would have wanted a big show for them but we abided by the rules," she said.

"In a society where we talk about equality, some of us seem to be more equal than others - and that's not to distract from the grief of the Storey family.

"I was told no opening the coffin. He couldn't come home. We had to adhere to all of that and it was extremely hard.

"It's hurtful to all of those who have lost people."

Lily Kerr's son Brendan died suddenly in April

Ms Kerr added: "We always need to be aware there is a family who have lost a loved one and we all know how that feels.

"Many others will feel the same anger as we felt about Dominic Cummings.

"In Northern Ireland, we have the added dimension where this has now become a political football and the death of our loved ones has been politicised and weaponised."

The daughter of veteran SDLP politician John Dallat, who died in May following a long battle with cancer, also said the scenes at Bobby Storey's funeral had "compounded" her family's pain.

SDLP veteran John Dallat died in May following a battle with cancer. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Helena Dallat O'Driscoll said they had adhered to Covid-19 guidelines "in the greater interest and safety of society".

"As a family, when we were organising dad's funeral, we did what we thought we needed to do, especially given he was a MLA," she said.

"We had no wake. We didn't get to bring his remains home. We had a very small, private funeral. We didn't carry his coffin. None of his MLAs were able to travel to it.

"All that goes against the culture and to be frank, it broke our hearts. As a family, we didn't think we should be treated any differently to any other grieving family."

Mrs Dallat O'Driscoll said Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill needed to "reflect on her authority to give advice to the rest of us on Covid restrictions".

Helena Dallat O'Driscoll's father, SDLP MLA John Dallat, died in May

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Northern Ireland news