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PSNI probe breaches of coronavirus restrictions at funerals

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Francie McNally's funeral in Ballinderry, Co Tyrone.

Francie McNally's funeral in Ballinderry, Co Tyrone.

Francie McNally's funeral in Ballinderry, Co Tyrone.

Police have been investigating potential breaches of coronavirus guidelines at two republican funerals for nearly six weeks but have yet to send any files to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

The first evidence-gathering operation was launched after scores of people turned out to watch the cortege for former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally in Ballinderry, Co Tyrone, on April 8.

The police commander of the Mid Ulster District, Superintendent Mike Beard, and the local priest had spoken to the family about the need for social distancing and were assured it would be relatives only in attendance.

But members of the public followed the horse-drawn hearse to the graveyard, which was flanked by men in republican mourning attire and led by a piper.

Images of the funeral prompted a message from Deputy First Minister and MLA for the constituency, Michelle O'Neill. "The rules are there for a reason. Everybody needs to follow them. Nobody is exempt," she said.

Just over a week later, another republican funeral saw hundreds of people gather outside a house in Turf Lodge in west Belfast, sparking a second police probe.

In both cases pictures and video of the gatherings were shared on social media, with police appealing for information about possible breaches of regulations.

A police spokesperson told Sunday Life inquiries were still ongoing in relation to both events and when files are completed they will be submitted to the PPS for consideration.

However, police did take action over a gathering related to the death of a young man in west Belfast at the end of last month.

Six fines and community resolution notices were handed out after a large crowd gathered to watch a tribute by boy racers to Sean 'Big Bo' Monaghan near his house in Poleglass.

Belfast Telegraph