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Top Belfast City Council officers offer apology to families over cremations

Council chief Suzanne Wylie and officer Nigel Grimshaw apologised to families affected by events around Bobby Storey’s funeral.

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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)

Two of the top officers on Belfast City Council have offered their apologies to families denied the same cremation service as IRA veteran Bobby Storey on the day of his funeral.

A funeral procession took place for Mr Storey in west Belfast last Tuesday before his remains were transferred to Roselawn Cemetery.

The service for the senior republican was the only one of nine that day where 30 people were allowed to attend an outdoor committal service on site.

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The funeral procession of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey following the funeral at St Agnes’ Church in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The funeral procession of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey following the funeral at St Agnes’ Church in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

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The funeral procession of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey following the funeral at St Agnes’ Church in west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The other eight cremations were not allowed services at the site.

Coronavirus regulations on outdoor gatherings changed from 10 to 30 people late on June 29.

Prior to that, the council was allowing 10 people to attend burials but no-one was permitted to attend committal services after cremations on site.

The council said its decision was an “error of judgment”.

On Wednesday, council chief executive Suzanne Wylie and senior officer Nigel Grimshaw issued a joint statement to express their “sincerest apologies to those families who were affected”.

“We recognise that this is unacceptable, and we apologise to those families wholeheartedly and unreservedly,” they said.

“A report is being prepared for the council on the facts of the case. This will clarify the sequence of events that took place, and what measures the council will take to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again.

“The past few months have presented us with enormous challenges in terms of the Covid response, adaptation of our services, and the constant change in guidance and legislation. This has required us to make rapid decisions on many fronts, and in a very complex political landscape.

“We pride ourselves in maintaining the integrity of the council in what is at times, a very difficult environment. We and all chief officers have always done our utmost to serve all eight political parties in this council and do our best to serve this city.

“We are concerned about certain statements and comments that have been made, and the impact these may have on our roles in Belfast City Council.

“We are formally raising these issues with party leaders and the chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

“Due to an ongoing process, we will not be commenting further.”

Meanwhile a special meeting of the council is set to take place on Friday.

The meeting was at the request of the DUP group on the council to consider the events of Roselawn on Tuesday June 30, and discuss steps to be taken.

The motion to be discussed by councillors proposes to commission an independent investigation into the incident to provide a written report to the council.

PA