Northern Ireland news

Police 'committed to completing Bobby Storey funeral investigation as soon as possible'

(left to right) Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, former leader Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill attended the funeral of Bobby Storey in west Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

POLICE have said they received confirmation this week that a number of people contacted about suspected breaches of Covid regulations at the funeral of Bobby Storey have confirmed they will be interviewed.

Hundreds of people gathered in west Belfast in June for the funeral of the veteran republican, including senior Sinn Féin figures.

It sparked a major row at Stormont, with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and others being accused 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.

He said in September that 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."

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

It was believed the number of party figures issued with letters stretched into double figures.

In an update yesterday, Mr Webster said the investigation team had been engaged with the legal representatives of those who were contacted "and on Wednesday 18th November 2020 they confirmed their intention to participate in voluntary interviews with police".

"It is anticipated these interviews will take place in due course."

He added that he was "committed to completing (the investigation) as soon as possible".

Ms O'Neill said yesterday she had "done everything" she needed to do in line with the investigation and had responded immediately after being contacted by police in September.

However, DUP Policing Board member Joanne Bunting contrasted the "immediate response" of police to Black Lives Matters protests earlier this year with the funeral of Bobby Storey.

"Mr Webster who is overseeing the investigation should at least give a commitment that the investigation will be completed before we pass the six-month date where prosecutions must be brought," the East Belfast MLA said.

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