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Probe into access to cemetery for Bobby Storey funeral to report in six weeks

Lawyer Peter Coll QC is leading the independent investigation.

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Roselawn Cemetery and Crematorium in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Roselawn Cemetery and Crematorium in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Roselawn Cemetery and Crematorium in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

An independent probe into events at a Belfast cemetery on the day that veteran republican Bobby Storey was cremated is set to report in six weeks.

Scenes of mass gatherings in west Belfast at Mr Storey’s funeral despite restrictions as part of the coronavirus regulations sparked outrage in June.

Further upset was caused over access granted to Roselawn Cemetery on a day when eight other families were denied access due to pandemic measures.

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the funeral of Bobby Storey (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the funeral of Bobby Storey (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the funeral of Bobby Storey (Liam McBurney/PA)

Belfast City Council apologised to those families.

The council also ordered an independent investigation into the handling of the funeral at Roselawn Cemetery which will be led by lawyer Peter Coll QC.

It will report back in six weeks’ time.

The terms of reference include 14 concerns.

The first of these is whether any preferential treatment was sought to accommodate the cremation of Mr Storey by political representatives or others acting on behalf of the family.

The list of concerns also includes whether “control” of the cemetery was handed to persons acting on behalf of the Storey family, using CCTV to examine numbers present and the decision to send council staff home.

Mr Coll has also been asked to “review when and if decisions were communicated to elected representatives, which elected representatives they were communicated to and when they were so communicated”.

In a statement, Belfast City Council said families affected by events at Roselawn will be given the opportunity to speak to Mr Coll directly.

“Party Group Leaders on Belfast City Council have agreed to the release of the Roselawn investigation terms of reference,” the statement reads.

“These incorporate the issues raised by the political parties within council following the decision to commission an independent investigation, and have been approved by all of those parties which supported that decision.

“The terms of reference provide scope for additional issues to be raised between Party Group Leaders and Peter Coll QC.

“Council will ensure that any relatives of families impacted may speak directly with Mr Coll QC should they wish to do so.

“Council will be in touch with family representatives in the coming days to facilitate arrangements should they wish such a meeting to take place.”

Meanwhile, Mark Webster, deputy chief constable of Cumbria Constabulary, will oversee and direct the PSNI’s investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 restrictions at Mr Storey’s funeral.

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