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Beattie claims Sinn Fein abused wider society with Bobby Storey funeral actions

Doug Beattie

Sinn Fein leaders abused wider society in Northern Ireland by flouting coronavirus rules at Bobby Storey's funeral, the Assembly has been told.

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie was among several MLAs who criticised the republican party's actions during an Assembly debate on the Covid-19 regulations.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has denied claims she and her colleagues breached regulations and guidance on funerals and public gatherings by attending an event that saw hundreds line the streets of west Belfast.

Yesterday, MLAs debated changes made to the regulations during the week that Mr Storey's funeral took place on June 30.

Those relaxations included increasing the number allowed at an outdoor public gathering to 30 - a move that became law at 11pm the night before the funeral.

Mr Beattie said: "The integrity and the credibility of the Executive Office has been seriously damaged and has been seriously damaged by Sinn Fein, who seem to have got selective amnesia, because they never talk about their deliberate breach of the guidelines that they told everybody to adhere to. When you talk about this selective amnesia, we now have a society who seemed to have brushed that under the carpet.

"Because what that did was abuse our society - what they did at that funeral abused our society. There wasn't 30 there, there were hundreds there, and it abused our society."

DUP MLA Pam Cameron said the episode had left her "deflated". "The unity of purpose that typified the response of this Assembly and Executive is now sadly so damaged," she said.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said the regulations continued to cause confusion. "I worry about an Executive that cannot relay messages to people and then gets upset when people don't stick to the guidelines," he said.

Sinn Fein junior minister Declan Kearney did not address the controversy in his remarks to the Assembly. However, he did insist the approach taken by the Executive had worked.

Yesterday, MLAs backed the amendments to the regulations without the need for a formal division vote.

Belfast Telegraph