Northern Ireland

Bobby Storey funeral: Police probing if security was sub-contracted to people with no insurance or licences

The funeral of republican Bobby Storey in June 2020. Picture by Mal McCann
The funeral of republican Bobby Storey in June 2020. Picture by Mal McCann

POLICE are investigating if security arrangements for veteran republican Bobby Storey's funeral last year were sub-contracted to "unknown third parties" who had no insurance or licences, according to a report.

An events company worked on behalf of Mr Storey's family to plan stewarding arrangements for the funeral.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne declined to name the company yesterday, adding there was an ongoing investigation.

The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), published on Monday, found no bias in how the PSNI handled the funeral, which drew around 2,000 mourners in June 2020 despite Covid restrictions.

The event, attended by senior Sinn Féin figures including Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, caused a political fall-out.

The decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) not to recommend any prosecutions in relation to the funeral prompted calls from unionists for the chief constable to resign.

The PPS is reviewing its decision not to prosecute anyone.

The HMIC report found that police are still investigating several complaints in relation to the event.

Police received reports that "security and stewarding arrangements for the funeral were sub-contracted to unknown third parties, with no public liability insurance or security licences".

The report highlighted that officers are still looking at possible offences under The Private Security Industry Act 2001.

It stated that an "events-planning company, used frequently by Sinn Féin" helped develop a stewarding plan for the funeral and passed a document to the PSNI.

A senior officer told HMIC the document was "more of a risk assessment than a plan".

The company held a video call with senior police on June 29 last year, ahead of the funeral, and outlined stewarding arrangements, including the cortège route.

"There was no mention of the fact that the events company's stewards were going to line the route on the day of the funeral," the report stated.

The report's authors said they tried to speak to the company "but got no response".

Chief Constable Simon Byrne told BBC's The Nolan Show yesterday: "In relation to their role, they were acting on behalf of a third party so it's up to the third party to describe what's going on.

"There is actually a separate investigation into that company that's alluded to in the report so I don't want to get drawn on that at the moment."

The HMIC report found there were "grounds for criticising the PSNI approach" to the funeral but they were not "especially serious failings".

Mr Byrne welcomed the HMIC report and said police would enact its recommendations.

"I think I want to try and draw a line under it now and move on so that we're ready to police the events over the summer," he said.

He said he had not considered stepping down, despite considerable pressure from unionists.

The HMIC report was debated in the assembly yesterday.

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said Sinn Féin members who attended the funeral showed "no respect, no regard and no restraint".

Sinn Féin's policing spokesman Gerry Kelly, who attended the funeral, appealed that "we do move on".

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said the republican movement was to blame, adding that politicians must now rebuild confidence.

Mike Nesbitt MLA, Ulster Unionist member of the Policing Board, has asked the assembly's justice committee to invite Stephen Herron, Director of Public Prosecutions, to discuss issues around the funeral.

Mr Herron had complained to the chief constable that police made public its recommendation to the PPS that prosecutions should be pursued over the funeral.

Mr Nesbitt suggested that Mr Herron should appear before the committee "as a matter of urgency to discuss this and other recent actions and decisions of the PPS".