Coronavirus: Sinn Fein criticised after large crowd gathers for IRA member's funeral

Tuesday 30th June 2020 16:00 BST

Bobby Storey, a 64-year-old veteran republican, died following an unsuccessful lung transplant earlier this month.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, vice president Michelle O'Neill and former president Gerry Adams were among hundreds who gathered in the Andersonstown Road area on Tuesday morning.

The funeral procession started at Mr Storey's home and made its way to St Agnes' church in west Belfast.

The former IRA member's coffin was draped in the Irish flag.

The size of the crowd drew immediate criticism from Sinn Fein's political rivals amid claims of multiple breaches of coronavirus regulations limiting the size of public gatherings in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie compared Ms O'Neill's public remarks on limiting numbers at funerals to her attendance at Tuesday's service.

He tweeted: "Having watched families unable to attend funerals or be with their loved one as they passed away I think this undermines the credibility of our executive office."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said Ms O'Neill's position was no longer tenable.

He added: "In light of the fact that Ms O'Neill is today present with many hundreds of others at the funeral of Bobby Storey her position is untenable.

"Her conduct is grossly offensive and insulting to the many law-abiding people who have made the huge sacrifice of foregoing a normal funeral as they said farewell to family members who died recently."

Following funeral mass, the cortege proceeded to the republican plot at Milltown cemetery where Mr Adams was scheduled to deliver an oration.

Crowds assembled by the roadside applauded as the coffin passed by.

Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly and Donegal TD Pearse Doherty were among other high-profile Sinn Fein figures who attended.

Former Sinn Fein MEP and current Foyle MLA Martina Anderson was part of a guard of honour formed for the former IRA member outside the church.

Mr Storey was a highly influential presence within his community throughout the Troubles in Northern Ireland and subsequent peace process.

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