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Nurse reports Sinn Fein MLAs to police over Storey funeral as Stormont parties to unite to demand apology

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The funeral cortege of Bobby Storey in west Belfast last week

The funeral cortege of Bobby Storey in west Belfast last week

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The funeral cortege of Bobby Storey in west Belfast last week

Five parties at Stormont are expected to show a rare display of unity on Tuesday by demanding that Sinn Fein ministers apologise over their attendance at Bobby Storey's funeral.

The motion, which will be debated in the Assembly around 6pm, is supported by the DUP, SDLP, Ulster Unionists, Alliance and Green Party.

Meanwhile, a nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital says that she has reported Sinn Fein MLAs to the police and the office of the Assembly Standards Commissioner for allegedly breaching coronavirus regulations.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said on Monday she hadn't been contacted by the PSNI following the Storey funeral.

But she stressed that she would be "more than happy to cooperate with any PSNI officer who may wish to speak to me".

Mrs O'Neill came under significant pressure over her funeral attendance from MLAs in all parties at Stormont on Monday.

The motion to be debated "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".

It asks the public to continue to uphold "the spirit and the letter of Covid-19 regulations and guidance".

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Questioned: Michelle O’Neill

Questioned: Michelle O’Neill

Questioned: Michelle O’Neill

The resolution also calls on Mrs O'Neill and Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who both attended the funeral, "to apologise for their actions, which have caused immense hurt".

However, TUV leader Jim Allister described the resolution as "pathetically weak".

He said: "All it can muster is not condemnation, but an expression of 'disappointment' over Sinn Fein's actions.

"Then, it limply makes a plaintive call for apology, with the Deputy First Minister having defiantly said she will 'never apologise'.

"Well, I am not looking for apologies, I'm looking for resignations."

Mr Allister said that the cross-party motion was "designed to protect 'the process', rather than doing anything that underscores Sinn Fein's "demonstrable unfitness for government".

Mr Allister said that Sinn Fein would not be overly concerned about the motion because it was so weak.

"Sinn Fein knows it can stare down its Executive critics, and so it will, strengthened in the realisation it can do whatever it likes," he added.

The TUV leader has tabled an amendment condemning Sinn Fein and calling for resignations over the funeral.

Mrs O'Neill faced a barrage of questions from MLAs on Monday.

UUP leader Steve Aiken asked her if she would consider her position if there was an increase in Covid-19 cases.

The Deputy First Minister insisted that she took her responsibilities very seriously.

"I will continue to lead us through this pandemic no matter what comes at us in the future," she said. SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: "Sinn Fein seem to think of themselves as an elite party where the rules don't normally apply and have created a hierarchy of people who can flout the rules whenever they so choose.

"How exactly are you going to prevent people from having that perception and being able to stand in front of a podium telling me, and everybody here, and everybody outside of here what to do and that the rules don't apply to you?"

Mrs O'Neill replied: "All the public listening at home, it's really, really important.

"They have walked this journey with us and they need to continue to walk this journey with us. I will continue to walk with them."

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey quoted from Mrs O'Neill's response to the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Belfast last month. She had said that it was important to send a message very clearly that gathering in large crowds would spread the disease and kill people.

"Where we were in June and where we are today are two different spaces," the Deputy First Minister replied.

She said the Executive was lifting coronavirus restrictions at "break-neck speed" and the situation was constantly changing.

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole asked if Mrs O'Neill agreed that republicanism's central tenet "is that all citizens are equal before the law".

She replied that she believed that "everyone is equal".

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said that the Deputy First Minister's comments in defence of her actions at the Storey funeral demonstrated that she "really doesn't get it".

On her different attitude to coronavirus now, he added: "What changed? Was it a senior republican died and the rules that everyone else had to abide went out the window?"

Mrs O'Neill told the Assembly that she never intended to cause anyone pain by attending the funeral. "I distinguish between families that have lost, and their hurt, and then those charges that are levelled towards me that are about politics, not about the law," she said.

Mr Allister said that the law was clear that attendance at funerals was generally restricted to members of the same household or family.

He reminded her of her pledge of office, which had to be upheld in "word and deed". He asked her why she thought she was "above the law". "Is it because she has a higher loyalty to the republican movement?" he said.

Mrs O'Neill denied that she had done anything wrong and added that she took her ministerial responsibilities "very seriously".

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said she was speaking more in disappointment than anger. She said that her uncle had died during the pandemic and it had been a very difficult time.

Belfast Telegraph