Northern Ireland news

Police to interview Michelle O'Neill in Bobby Storey funeral probe

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald, Gerry Adams and Michelle O'Neill at the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
Brendan Hughes

DEPUTY First Minister Michelle O'Neill is to be interviewed by police investigating alleged breaches of Covid-19 restrictions at veteran republican Bobby Storey's funeral.

Ms O'Neill is among several senior Sinn Féin representatives to have been sent letters by police seeking voluntary interviews as part of their probe.

The number of party figures issued with letters is believed to stretch into double figures.

A Sinn Féin spokesman confirmed that a "number of the party's elected representatives" had been contacted and they will "co-operate with the investigation".

Police said an "initial number" of letters were issued to people inviting them to attend voluntary interviews, and they have 14 days to respond.

Hundreds of people gathered in west Belfast in June for Bobby Storey's funeral, including senior Sinn Féin figures.

It sparked a major row at Stormont, with other parties accusing Sinn Féin of breaching coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and undermining the executive's message on the pandemic.

Cumbria Constabulary's Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster was appointed to oversee and direct the PSNI investigation.

In a statement yesterday he said: "Today an initial number of letters were issued to individuals who were identified as having been present on June 30 in potential breach of the health protection regulations.

"The letters are inviting these individuals to participate in a voluntary interview with investigating officers at a local police station.

"Upon receipt of a letter, individuals will have 14 days to respond should they wish to take part in an interview."

Police refused to say how many letters have been issued at this stage.

Ms O'Neill and other Sinn Féin representatives have continued to deny breaching Covid-19 restrictions at the funeral.

However earlier this month, the Deputy First Minister acknowledged the controversy "undermined" Stormont's public health messaging.

The Sinn Féin vice-president said she regretted what happened and wanted to "rebuild trust" with the public.

It led to the reintroduction of joint coronavirus briefings with First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster, which had stopped for months following the controversy.

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey welcomed the developments in the police investigation.

"The focus on process is one thing and I'm glad to hear progress but an outcome is the most important," he said.

"It is 81 days since the Covid-19 rules were fundamentally undermined by that event.

"This case, like every other investigation, must be based on the principle that everyone is equal under the law and be equally subject to the law. No-one is above the law."

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