SINN Féin has been accused of “hypocrisy” after it was revealed that senior members have not yet spoken to police about their attendance at the funeral of Bobby Storey.
ine Gael made the claim after it emerged that it was two months before the PSNI got written confirmation from legal representatives of Sinn Féin members they wished to speak to that they would participate.
Senator Emer Currie pointed to comments by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in September where she promised cooperation by party members and suggested the PSNI “need to crack on with it”
Ms Currie asked: “So why the delay? Why haven’t senior party figures made themselves available to the police five months on given the huge public anger over the event?”
A Fine Gael statement claimed the issue “demonstrates the party’s hypocrisy once again”.
A Sinn Féin spokesperson responded to the Fine Gael criticism saying: “Every party member who has been approached by the PSNI to attend for voluntary interview has agreed to do so and our legal team has requested dates for interviews from the PSNI.”
The North’s Deputy First Minister has insisted she “The PSNI got in touch in the middle of September. I corresponded right away.”
There was controversy over the funeral of senior Republican Mr Storey as crowds lined the streets at a time when Covid-19 restrictions in the North stated that a maximum of 30 people were allowed to gather together outdoors.
The funeral was attended by Ms O’Neill, Ms McDonald, Donegal TD Pearse Doherty and other senior Sinn Féin figures.
The PSNI is investigating if there were any breaches of coronavirus regulations.
The BBC reported today that the PSNI wrote to Ms O’Neill and 23 other people on September 18 but it was two months before police received written confirmation from the legal representatives of those they wish to speak to that “confirmed their intention to participate”.
Ms O’Neill’s legal representatives are in talks with the PSNI to arrange an interview.
Sinn Fein said its lawyers were working with police in order to hold “virtual interviews” and has requested dates for them to take place.
Ms O’Neill said: “I have acted in accordance with everything that’s been asked of me. The PSNI got in touch in the middle of September. I corresponded right away. I’m waiting for a date to go and speak to them.
“I have done everything I needed to and I’m very comfortable with all of that. I am available to talk to them whenever they’re ready.”
The BBC Stephen Nolan show revealed police wrote to the deputy First Minister in September.
She and 23 other Sinn Fein members attended the funeral of the IRA veteran which sparked a political crisis in the North.
On July 6, Ms O’Neill told the Assembly police had not been in touch regarding the events of June 30 saying she was “more than happy” to cooperate with any investigation.
She said she would never apologise for attending the funeral of a friend but maintained she did not breach the regulations her government set.
In September Ms McDonald told the Irish Independent she would “absolutely” talk to the PSNI if they want to interview her and said of the investigation: “They need to crack on with it.”
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster said: “On July 11, 2020 I was appointed to examine the sequence of events surrounding the funeral of Bobby Storey on June 30 this year and alleged breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020.
“Evidence has been gathered over the course of recent months and as a result on September 18, 2020 the investigation team wrote to a number of people, suspected of having breached the regulations.
“Since then the investigation team have been engaged with the legal representatives of those people and on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 they confirmed their intention to participate in voluntary interviews with police. It is anticipated these interviews will take place in due course.
“I was appointed to ensure independent oversight of this investigation. I am committed to completing it as soon as possible.
“As this matter remains active there will be no further public commentary at this time.”
Thousands lined the streets of west Belfast for veteran republican Mr Storey following his passing in June. Speeches were given at the republican plot in the City Cemetery before Mr Storey’s remains were taken to Roselawn Crematorium.
A separate Belfast City Council investigation is underway into how 30 people were able to attend that private service while other eight other families did not get the same access. The council apologised describing it as an “error of judgment”.
In a statement, Sinn Fein said: “Sinn Fein made it clear from the start that we would co-operate with the PSNI inquiry.
“People were not contacted by police until September 18, so we couldn’t deal with it earlier as the police hadn’t identified who they were looking to speak to.
“Since then our legal representatives have been in ongoing contact with the PSNI to address a number of issues such as availing of a PSNI pilot scheme ‘Digitally Recorded Virtual Interviews’.
“Our legal team has requested dates for interview from the PSNI.”
Source: Irish News