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Editor's Viewpoint

Another bad day for policing and politics

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PA

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

Veteran IRA man Bobby Storey no doubt would have laughed had he known that even in death he would still be causing embarrassment and a lack of confidence in the PSNI, and setting the DUP against the Chief Constable.

For in a day of high legal and political drama, the decision by the Public Prosecution Service not to take action against anyone for what appeared clear breaches of coronavirus regulations at Mr Storey's funeral caused a furore.

However, what seemed an open and shut case was anything but, according to the PPS, which said lack of clarity in the regulations and the fact organisers had met the PSNI before the funeral made the likelihood of a successful prosecution remote. In other words, it fell at the first test the PPS applies to every case presented to it.

Just why it had taken so long from the funeral in June last year to reach yesterday's conclusion is puzzling.

There was an investigation of the events around the funeral but it should have become clear very early of the pitfalls that lay ahead.

Yesterday was not a good day for policing or politics. First Minister Arlene Foster pulled no punches in demanding Chief Constable Simon Byrne resign, which he refused to do - a decision she said she regretted.

Sinn Fein and the PSNI between them have created the impression of two-tier policing. How must those hundreds of families who found themselves in the same position as the Storey family feel today. They observed the regulations governing the number of people at funerals as if they were written in stone.

Will families who lose loved ones in the weeks and months to come feel the same way, or will they demand to be allowed to have traditional funerals with no limits on mourners?

We, of course, would not condone any actions which have the potential to spread the virus just at a time when it is being reduced in its effectiveness. Yet what answer can anyone give a bereaved family who feel they are entitled to be treated just like Sinn Fein when it comes to funerals?

This row will rumble on and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill may face renewed calls to resign.

She will refuse, as politicians and others in authority here are loath to give up office no matter what offence is alleged, unlike Scotland's chief medical officer, who resigned for making two trips to her holiday home during the early stages of the pandemic.

It goes to prove Northern Ireland is indeed a place apart.

Belfast Telegraph


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