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DUP’s Jim Shannon ‘incredulous’ after latest revelations of lockdown parties at Downing Street

A Northern Ireland MP who wept in Parliament this week as he questioned the government about alleged lockdown-busting Downing Street social events has said he is “absolutely incredulous” at reports of further parties.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon broke down in tears in the House of Commons on Tuesday while challenging the government about rule breaches.

He shared his anger at the fact that his mother-in-law had died alone with Covid during the pandemic.

Downing Street has now had to apologise to Buckingham Palace for two staff parties held in No 10 on the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

The late night get-togethers were said to have taken place on April 16 last year.

Staff were reportedly sent to a nearby shop with a suitcase, that was brought back "filled with bottles of wine".

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Although the Prime Minister was not at either gathering, his spokesman said it was “deeply regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning".

The gatherings, first reported by The Telegraph, allegedly went on until the early hours.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Shannon said: “Like so many of us, I’ve been extremely annoyed by the news of what’s happening.

"I find it absolutely incredulous that such a thing would have taken place on the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

"It’s clear to me that not only is there an apology needed, which has been given to be fair, there’s also a need for a clear review of all the things that have taken place.”

He said he was confident that a review into the rule breaches by senior civil servant Sue Gray would be “significant".

"It will be very strongly run from her point of view and will have a satisfactory conclusion, with action taken by her,” he added.

"The nation needs it and people want to see it.”

Mr Shannon said that faith in the government had now been badly undermined.

"For around 3,000 families in Northern Ireland and around 156,000 families across the United Kingdom the rules were clear,” he said.

"We all followed the rules, they have a purpose and that’s the anger that people have.

"Ultimately the Prime Minister's decision (on whether he resigns) is clear to me but his own party will be the ones that decide that.

"I think there are many people in the Conservative Party that now have low confidence in the Prime Minister. I’ll leave that matter with them.”

Mr Shannon said he ultimately had faith that the public would still adhere to health guidelines despite the poor example shown.

"I think people are bigger than that, the fact that so many people adhere to the rules even though some may digress.

"The Bobby Storey funeral in Belfast was a prime example of that, thousands of people flouted the rules.

"But the vast majority of people on both sides of the community did follow the rules and know what has to be done.”

On the contrasting images of the Queen sitting on her own during Prince Philip's funeral, he said: “As out nation’s leader, from a royal point of view, she followed the rules.

"And if she can follow the rules then everybody else should be following the rules as well.”

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