Mary Lou McDonald rules out any punishment over Bobby Storey funeral attendance

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said there will be “no punishment” or anyone stepping down for attending the packed funeral ceremony of Republican Bobby Storey.

She was responding amid calls from parties in the North and South for Sinn Féin politicians to either self-isolate or for the party’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, to step aside.

This follows the attendance of politicians, including Ms McDonald and Ms O’Neill, at the Belfast funeral amid a crowd of some 1,800, an event that has sparked concern about Covid-19 spreading.

Speaking in Leinster House today while unveiling a new frontbench for the Dáil term, Ms McDonald defended her party and ruled out any resignations.

I don’t think anybody should be punished or asked to step aside or step down because they attended the funeral of their friend, no I don’t.

Ms McDonald said any funeral involved difficult circumstances, especially for mourners.

“In relation to Bobby Storey’s funeral. I was very, very honored to be asked by his family to attend the mass. I was one of a very small number of people there to do a reading, actually at that mass.

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The funeral of veteran IRA mastermind Bobby Storey on the Andersonstown Road in west Belfast. He died in England after an unsuccessful lung transplant operation. Photo: Alan Lewis
The funeral of veteran IRA mastermind Bobby Storey on the Andersonstown Road in west Belfast. He died in England after an unsuccessful lung transplant operation. Photo: Alan Lewis

“There was a limited cortege. There were numbers lining the streets.

“But this is the problem. When somebody is a public figure, or where somebody dies in very tragic circumstances and very difficult circumstances, people will come out to pay their respects.

“And I believe that those organising the funeral did their very best to maintain social distancing.” 

Earlier, Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar criticised Ms O’Neill for travelling to Dublin to attend the Dáil vote for Taoiseach on the weekend.

He said politicians should “lead by example”.

He claimed Ms O’Neill had attended a “photo-op” at the Dublin event.

Meanwhile, the PSNI are investigating if any rules were broken by the large crowds that attended Tuesday’s Belfast funeral.

The DUP has also called for Ms O’Neill to stand aside as the North’s deputy first minister while this police investigation takes place.



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