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Sinn Fein 'takeover' of Roselawn for Bobby Storey's cremation sparks anger

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Sonia Copeland

Sonia Copeland

Sonia Copeland

Pressure has been turned on Belfast City Council to explain why special arrangements were put in place to allow the funeral of Bobby Storey to be controlled by Sinn Fein members when it reached Roselawn.

The Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed on Thursday that the remains of Mr Storey were taken there for cremation.

Previously it had been thought that he was buried in Milltown Cemetery, where a large crowd had gathered earlier in the day.

The council has admitted that some employees were allowed to go home early ahead of Tuesday's funeral and that others, which it says were appointed by the Storey family, took guard at the gates of Roselawn.

But the decision to hand over the council-run cemetery has been met with fury, with calls for an urgent investigation into why the decision was made behind the backs of councillors.

George Dorrian, DUP group leader on Belfast City Council, said: "No DUP councillor was made aware of any of these decisions prior to the events occurring but it is vital now that the full facts are established.

"We will support a full report being provided to all councillors."

UUP councillor Sonia Copeland also demanded a full scale independent investigation into what happened. "It has been reported that on Tuesday afternoon Sinn Fein 'marshals' dressed in black and white clothing were on security duty at Roselawn, directing traffic and checking vehicles at the main gates," she said.

"I also understand that some staff were sent home on full pay, that no burials were permitted after 2pm, and the last cremation ended at 3pm to accommodate Bobby Storey's cremation.

"This is a simply outrageous situation, and what compounds it is the fact that, as a public representative, I was not consulted about this or given any advance warning by the council officers.

"People are very angry about this and I fully understand and share that anger." Ms Copeland said she met with City Hall officials yesterday morning to discuss concerns.

"The meeting was frank and to the point and they are under no illusions as to the feelings of discontent within the public," she said.

"I addressed the issue of councillors not being informed of Mr Storey's cremation and was advised that this is normal procedure and councillors are not normally made aware of burials or cremations.

"I responded by advising that this was a high profile cremation which would attract media attention especially after the numbers seen at Milltown Cemetery. They are to come back to me with further information." In a statement, Belfast City Council said plans were made for people appointed by the Storey family to work with it in stewarding the event so that "those allowed on the site were only those permitted by the family".

It said a decision was taken not to hold any more cremations that day "to protect the privacy of other members of the public and their cremation services".

Meanwhile, the PSNI has denied a claim by Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald that it was involved in the "meticulous planning" of Tuesday's funeral.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said it had engaged with organisers so they "understood their obligations".

"To be clear, PSNI were not involved in the planning of this funeral and did not approve any plan for the funeral," he said.

"We had assurances that those attending would observe the health guidelines."

Belfast Telegraph