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Funerals deserve dignity not illegality - The Irish News
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Leading article

Funerals deserve dignity not illegality

All sections of the community are fully entitled to bury their dead in a dignified way which pays appropriate tribute to the history, commitments and beliefs of the deceased.

What they do not have the right to do is engage in offensive propaganda displays on behalf of illegal organisations which have been responsible for the deaths of many innocent victims.

Both republican and loyalist groups have crossed a line over recent days during gatherings in Derry and Belfast which present a number of challenges to the authorities.

Peggy O'Hara was a prominent figure in Derry city whose son, INLA member Patsy O'Hara, died on hunger strike in the H Blocks 34 years ago.

Masked men fired shots over her coffin last week and dozens of people wearing berets, dark glasses and paramilitary uniforms openly paraded in her funeral cortege on Saturday.

Those were provocative gestures which reflected the dark days of our past, and anyone who illegally produces a gun on our streets should certainly expect to be brought before the courts.

There were also unacceptable scenes at the funeral on Friday of UDA member Colin Lindsay, who was killed at his south Belfast home together with another man in a bizarre incident involving a neighbour armed with a samurai sword.

Paramilitary wreaths bearing the names of the UDA and the UFF, which like the INLA are illegal groups, were on open display, and men wearing white shirts, black ties and loyalist armbands staged a guard of honour.

What has caused particular concern is that the police press office issued a request from the family of the dead man for journalists to respect their privacy and stay away from his funeral.

This might have been understandable if the proceedings had been a normal gathering of relatives and friends, but a very different set of circumstances unfolded in the Belvoir estate beside one of Belfast's busiest roads.

While police may well have sent the message out in good faith, they should plainly have sought assurances that there would be no paramilitary trappings at the Lindsay funeral.

If illegal organisations are going to stage public shows of strength, it is essential that the media is in a position to expose exactly what takes place.

The Lindsay family had no reasonable expectation of privacy in such a context, and police should acknowledge that the request which was sent out through official channels represented an error of judgment which will not be repeated.

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