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Assembly urges Michelle O’Neill to apologise over Bobby Storey funeral

Finance Minister Conor Murphy was also named on a motion signed by the other four powersharing parties the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Alliance.

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The Assembly has passed a motion calling on Michelle O’Neill to apologise after attending Bobby Storey’s funeral (Liam McBurney/PA).

The Assembly has passed a motion calling on Michelle O’Neill to apologise after attending Bobby Storey’s funeral (Liam McBurney/PA).

The Assembly has passed a motion calling on Michelle O’Neill to apologise after attending Bobby Storey’s funeral (Liam McBurney/PA).

The Stormont Assembly has passed a motion urging deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill to apologise for attending Bobby Storey’s funeral during the pandemic.

Hundreds lined the route of the veteran republican and former IRA member’s cortege in west Belfast last week.

The Assembly’s declaration passed without a vote on Tuesday evening.

I regret to say that the Deputy First Minister's credibility is shot to bitsChristopher Stalford

DUP Assembly member Christopher Stalford said: “I regret to say that the Deputy First Minister’s credibility is shot to bits.”

The resolution was backed by the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Alliance but does not have any practical legal effect.

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster has asked her powersharing partner to step aside while PSNI officers consider the matter.

Ms O’Neill has apologised “for grieving families experiencing more hurt”.

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DUP First Minister Arlene Foster has asked her powersharing partner to step aside while officers consider the matter (Liam McBurney/PA).

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster has asked her powersharing partner to step aside while officers consider the matter (Liam McBurney/PA).

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DUP First Minister Arlene Foster has asked her powersharing partner to step aside while officers consider the matter (Liam McBurney/PA).

No new deaths have been recorded with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said on Tuesday, leaving the total number of people who have died at 554.

Another five positive cases have been notified since Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 5,761.

A group of around 30 walked in Mr Storey’s cortege from St Agnes’ Church to Milltown Cemetery.

Police are investigating whether any social distancing breaches occurred.

It was not and would never be my intention to hurt anybody within societyMichelle O'Neill

Ms O’Neill has said she did everything she could to minimise numbers including encouraging thousands to watch it online while marshals kept the crowds away from the cortege during the journey through west Belfast.

On Tuesday she said: “It was not and would never be my intention to hurt anybody within society.”

She added: “I am satisfied that I did act responsibly within the church, as part of the cortege and at Milltown Cemetery.

“I take very seriously indeed my responsibility as a public office holder.

“I have acted in accordance with those responsibilities.”

Mr Storey was cremated at Roselawn cemetery in the east of the city where 30 people were allowed to attend an outdoor committal service.

The other eight cremations that took place on the same day were not allowed services at the site.

Belfast City Council has apologised to those families.

Mr Stalford said social distancing breaches included:

– Hundreds of people following behind the cortege;

– Widespread advertising of the event online;

– Installation of a public address system at Milltown Cemetery;

– A “mass rally” at the cemetery;

– The Sinn Fein vice-president posing for a selfie.

Do as I say, not as I doChristopher Stalford

Mr Stalford, who represents South Belfast, said: “These rules don’t apply to a senior member of Sinn Fein who is being buried.

“That is what really sticks in people’s craw.

“That is what is at the core of this issue.

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

The Assembly motion also singled out finance minister Conor Murphy’s presence at the funeral.

It “pays tribute to those who selflessly prioritised the need to keep each other safe above their own personal needs, particularly during times of trauma, loss and grief; expresses disappointment in the actions of those in ministerial office who breached public guidance and failed to share in the sacrifice that we have asked of others; implores members of the public to stay with us and to continue acting in accordance with the regulations in order to keep each other safe and prevent further deaths; recommits to upholding the spirit and the letter of the Covid-19 regulations and the related public health guidance; and calls on the Deputy First Minister and the minister of finance to apologise for their actions, which have caused immense hurt”.

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TUV leader Jim Allister submitted a no-confidence motion in Ms O’Neill, urging her to resign (Liam McBurney/PA).

TUV leader Jim Allister submitted a no-confidence motion in Ms O’Neill, urging her to resign (Liam McBurney/PA).

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TUV leader Jim Allister submitted a no-confidence motion in Ms O’Neill, urging her to resign (Liam McBurney/PA).

Mrs Foster said the episode had damaged her partner in government’s credibility in delivering coronavirus safety messages and has halted joint press conferences.

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