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PSNI criticised for 'failing to break up large crowd' at republican funeral in Belfast

PSNI have said an investigation is underway.

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Last week the republican funeral of former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry attracted a large
number of mourners

Last week the republican funeral of former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry attracted a large number of mourners

Last week the republican funeral of former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry attracted a large number of mourners

The PSNI has been criticised for "failing to break up a crowd of up to 500 mourners" who gathered outside a west Belfast home for a republican funeral cortege.

Between 400 and 500 people were observed standing outside the property in Lenadoon Avenue yesterday afternoon.

An eyewitness said they were shocked to see so many standing in close proximity, ignoring the Government's social-distancing guidelines.

The development comes as police investigate claims of breaches at recent funerals of Sinn Fein members in Belfast and Tyrone where images showed the number of mourners appearing to far exceed those allowed.

However, the eyewitness - who insisted the crowd spilled onto the Stewartstown Road - said yesterday they were left "completely dumbfounded" when officers in a police vehicle appeared to not take any action to break up the gathering.

"It was disgraceful. People were gathering in the road," they said. "They were in absolute droves close to the house ... There's no way social distancing was being maintained.

"I watched police drive past five or six times and they then stopped, but they just watched the coffin go past and then they took off."

They added: "It's not easy to follow the guidelines, particularly at a time when people are mourning a loss, but we all have to do our part at this tough time."

The new rules mean that a maximum of 10 close family members can be present - socially distanced - at private services and subsequent committals at cemeteries, while Roselawn crematorium is out of bounds to all mourners. Death notices in newspapers no longer carry details about the timings of funerals and where they're being held. Councils across Northern Ireland have also closed off cemeteries to the public.

Chief Inspector Gary Reid said: “Police officers responded to reports of a large funeral procession in west Belfast this afternoon. Those people who attended have put themselves, the local community and our NHS colleagues at more risk due to the potential spread of Coronavirus.

“An investigation is now underway and any evidence of breaches of Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations NI 2020 will be gathered for consideration of submission to the Public Prosecution Service.

“I would also appeal to anyone who has any imagery or footage, or are aware of those who contravened the regulations and put other lives at risk to call us on 101."

“Once again, I would remind everyone that it is essential that we all respect the current health and current legislation. I urge all people to play their part to keep people safe during this global health emergency crisis."

Belfast Telegraph