Northern Ireland news

Michelle O'Neill blames 'political row' for undermining Stormont's public health message

Michelle O'Neill with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (left) at Bobby Storey's funeral. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

MICHELLE O'Neill has again blamed the fallout from Bobby Storey's funeral for undermining Stormont's public health message around coronavirus.

The deputy first minister declined to say she was sorry for alleged breaches of the restrictions imposed by the executive to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Ms O'Neill is among a number of mourners who attended June's funeral of the veteran republican that have been asked to speak to police investigating potential breaches of coronavirus regulations.

The investigation into the events surrounding the funeral is being led by Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster of Cumbria Constabulary.

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

For weeks after the funeral First Minster Arlene Foster refused to take part in joint press conferences with the deputy first minister until the damage caused to the executive's public health message by senior Sinn Féin figures attending the west Belfast funeral was acknowledged.

Earlier this month, the Mid Ulster MLA said she accepted that the public messaging about the pandemic has been "undermined by the controversy over the last number of months".

"It was never my intention that that would happen, but it did and I regret that," the statement said.

Asked yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster whether she was prepared to apologise, Ms O'Neill again said public health messaging had been "undermined by the political row".

She said that was not her intention and she regretted it.

The Sinn Féin vice-president also stressed that there was no significance in the fact that she and Mrs Foster did separate interviews on Good Morning Ulster.

"Sometimes with these interviews it's more difficult to do things together, so I wouldn't read too much into it," she said.

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