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Family told 'only 10 mourners' at Roselawn day after 30-plus attended IRA man Storey's cremation

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Late Lisburn woman Evelyn McMullen

Late Lisburn woman Evelyn McMullen

Roselawn Crematorium in east Belfast

Roselawn Crematorium in east Belfast

Late Lisburn woman Evelyn McMullen

A family has said only 10 grieving relatives were allow to enter Roselawn Cemetery the day after Bobby Storey's funeral - despite revised rules permitting 30 people to come in.

Belfast City Council has indicated 30 people attended the IRA veteran's cremation last Tuesday, although others have put the figure higher, and republican stewards replaced some council staff.

William Gilmore (62) from Carrickfergus was cremated at Roselawn at 10.30am the following day, July 1, with a limit of 10 mourners imposed.

A family member has now written to Belfast City Council demanding an explanation.

William's sister Gail Hunter said her large family had faced a terrible decision over who could attend the final farewell for a much loved grandfather.

"It was heartbreaking deciding who could attend and who had to stay at home," she said.

"We had made enquiries as we thought the number who could attend had changed, but were still told only 10 would be permitted at Roselawn. We've been robbed of the chance to say farewell to William as a family.

"That was heartbreaking, even more so after seeing what was allowed to happen the day before. We want an answer from Belfast City Council on how this was allowed to happen. Something has gone badly wrong somewhere."

Relatives of Lisburn woman Evelyn McMullen were among the eight families denied access to Roselawn on the same day as Mr Storey's funeral. Ms McMullen's cremation at 12pm took place without her family present. Her daughter Lynn Paul said she and other family members had been left waiting at the gates of Roselawn, having stayed with her mother as long as she was allowed.

"Two cars of family members followed my mum's hearse to Roselawn last Tuesday for her cremation at 12pm," she said.

"We felt we wanted to be with her as long as possible. We had been told by our funeral director prior to her cremation that, unfortunately, still no family were allowed access to Roselawn nor the crematorium. They advised us these rules were still in place and were to be relaxed in the near future, but not on this day.

"We as a family, although saddened by these restrictions, were accepting of them, as every other family before us had experienced the same.

"We pulled up to the gates of Roselawn behind mum's hearse.

"The gates were opened and the hearse was given access, then immediately closed. We sat at the gate watching mum driven away from us."

Belfast City Council has admitted "an error of judgment", and said an exception was made for the loved ones of Mr Storey "for operational reasons".

But that, said Ms Paul, wasn't good enough.

"The information given out today by the council is still somewhat misleading and a poor excuse for an apology was received by us this morning," she said.

"We are devastated and have been unable to grieve in peace.

"Our hearts go out to all the families affected by last Tuesday's events and those who have lost loved ones during the past few months."

It has also emerged that Belfast City Council could now face legal action from the families as it may have breached Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, which addresses equality of opportunity. TUV MLA Jim Allister called on the NI Public Service Ombudsman to initiate an investigation, and said complaints would be lodged with both the Ombudsman and the Equality Commission.

"Belfast City Council needs to be strongly held to account in respect of its administration of the matter," he said.

"The council have admitted that they treated one family differently from all others. Furthermore, they have said that there were discussions with elected representatives about the funeral. There is clearly scope for complaints on the basis that people were not treated equally."

Belfast Telegraph