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Cumbria police chief to oversee PSNI probe into Storey funeral

Mark Webster will supervise the investigation into potential breaches of coronavirus regulations.

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Crowds gathered at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast for the funeral of veteran republic Bobby Storey on June 30 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Crowds gathered at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast for the funeral of veteran republic Bobby Storey on June 30 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Crowds gathered at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast for the funeral of veteran republic Bobby Storey on June 30 (Liam McBurney/PA)

A senior officer from Cumbria Constabulary has been appointed to oversee an investigation by police in Northern Ireland into potential breaches of coronavirus regulations at the funeral of a senior republican.

Hundreds turned out for the funeral of IRA veteran Bobby Storey in west Belfast on June 30 despite restrictions placed on the numbers that can attend outdoor gatherings.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Finance Minister Conor Murphy have been criticised for taking part in the funeral.

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the funeral at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the funeral at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill attended the funeral at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Last week, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said he had requested an external senior officer to oversee and direct the police investigation.

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt has now nominated Cumbria Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster for the task.

The investigation will also review events leading up to the date of the funeral.

Meanwhile, the Police Ombudsman is considering a complaint from a member of the public regarding police action leading up to the funeral.

The PSNI said in a statement: “Until a conclusion is reached on both matters, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be making no further comment.”

The row has caused a rift in the Stormont Assembly.

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First Minister Arlene Foster during a solo press conference in Co Fermanagh last week (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster during a solo press conference in Co Fermanagh last week (Liam McBurney/PA)

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First Minister Arlene Foster during a solo press conference in Co Fermanagh last week (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster has pressed Sinn Fein, her party’s partners in government, for a “recognition that the credibility of messaging was damaged”.

Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill have not appeared together since the row.

MLAs passed a motion last week urging Ms O’Neill to apologise for attending the funeral during the pandemic.

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

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

PA