Police search INLA funeral scene for bullet casings as family defends terrorist show of strength
Police have searched the garden at the home of the late Peggy O'Hara as the furore over the INLA presence at her funeral continues to rage.
The O'Hara family defended the paramilitary display and launched an attack on Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for attending the service and accused him of hypocrisy for his comments about the masked marchers.
Up to 100 men and women in paramilitary uniforms formed a guard of honour as the cortege of the 86-year-old mother of hunger striker Patsy O'Hara made its way through Londonderry to the City Cemetery on Saturday.
After the display and earlier firing of shots over the coffin, unionist politicians reacted with fury, demanding to know why the police presence at Saturday's funeral consisted of one Land Rover with a camera.
Yesterday, video was published online of police searching the O'Hara family garden for bullet casings used in the armed display beside the coffin.
The PSNI confirmed that investigating shots being fired had involved a search of a garden in Templegrove. No properties were entered, it added.
In a statement through solicitor Kevin Casey, the family asked for peace to grieve for their mother. "I think the only question any fair-minded person would ask is whether the family of the loyalist buried in Belfast at the weekend are being subjected to the same ordeal," Mr Casey added.
Earlier, Edel Kelly, the granddaughter of Mrs O'Hara, defended Saturday's paramilitary display and said the family were acting in accordance with Mrs O'Hara's wishes.
She said: "My granny organised everything herself before her death, she wanted what happened at the wake and she wanted what happened at the funeral."
Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly also defended it and rejected criticism of the police tactics. He said: "What did these politicians want the PSNI to do? Did they want them to move in to the funeral cortege with all the consequences that would bring?"
He went on: "But following that same logic that the PSNI should have taken action if they observed a breach of the law, then the same standards should apply in the case of the parade passing a Catholic church in Belfast and breaching the law there."
Ms Kelly slammed Mr McGuinness who had said that "masked men did little to honour, did little to respect the memory of such a good woman". Branding Sinn Fein "hypocrites", Ms Kelly said that it had been made clear to Mr McGuinness that he was not welcome at the funeral.
A DUP delegation met police chiefs last night to question the PSNI about its policing of paramilitary funerals.
Afterwards, North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland described it as "a disappointing meeting where answers from the police were in short supply".
"The police clearly got it wrong with this operation and they should recognise this publicly," he said.
"I accept that with a bomb alert in Lurgan on Saturday morning, resources were stretched but ultimately one Land Rover with a camera on top was not an adequate answer to the warnings that were issued prior to the funeral.
"We made it clear to the Deputy Chief Constable that there is deep concern in the unionist community and beyond about the policing of republican events."
After the Belfast Telegraph put a series of questions to the PSNI about the weekend's events, Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the concerns raised had been taken seriously, but did not answer the questions specifically.
"I take seriously the concerns expressed by elected representatives in relation to the policing operation following last Wednesday's firing of shots and subsequent paramilitary-type display at the funeral on Saturday," Mr Harris said.
He added: "Detectives from the Serious Crime Branch are leading the investigation into this sequence of events.
"It is important to note that evidence has been recorded and is currently being examined in order to identify those taking part."
Questions put to PSNI on policing of funeral:
- Was the PSNI aware in advance that a paramilitary parade was planned?
- Why was the parade allowed to go ahead?
- Why were no arrests made on the day?
- Have any of those involved in the parade been identified through the PSNI's evidence-gathering facilities that were at the scene?
- How many searches have been carried out/arrests made in relation to Saturday's events?