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Editor's Viewpoint

Bobby Storey cremation mistake must not be repeated



Roselawn Crematorium in east Belfast

Roselawn Crematorium in east Belfast

Roselawn Crematorium in east Belfast

The circumstances surrounding the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey become more and more surreal with Belfast City Council now having to make a grovelling apology to other families who had loved ones cremated at Roselawn on the same day.

It has been revealed that nine cremations were due to take place that day, but only the Storey family were allowed into the crematorium for the ceremony. Other families were not allowed in as their relatives were cremated.

Belfast City Council admits this was 'an error of judgement' and has apologised to the other families involved.

The council said that an operational decision was taken that new procedures allowing up to 30 people to gather outdoors which came into effect that day would only apply to the Storey funeral.

The council, which used to be the bearpit of local politics in Northern Ireland, should know full well that optics are vitally important in politics here. The public often bases its judgement on how things look without taking heed of any nuances.

In this case there are no nuances. The decision taken by the council looked bad and was bad. There is no suggestion that the Storey family were to blame for any of the events surrounding their loved one's funeral which had led to such public and political furore. Their grief is no different from that of other families who lost loved ones at the same time.

And while we cannot be certain how each of the families who were denied access to Roselawn for the cremation of their loved ones on that day feel now, it is hardly surprising that many, many other people in wider society shake their heads in disbelief at what happened.

Any one of us finding ourself in that position would be entitled to feel aggrieved at the arbitrary and unjust decision taken by Belfast City Council.

This was a decision which affected people at their lowest ebb. It denied families being present at the moment when their loved ones made their final exit from this mortal coil. It was a moment which can never be repeated and a wrong which can never be repaired.

At least the council had the grace to admit what it had done and to apologise for that decision. We need similar candour from deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and the leadership of Sinn Fein for the errors of judgement made earlier in the day when social distancing rules were ridden roughshod over.

Belfast Telegraph