Bobby Storey's funeral procession on 30 June 2020. (Credit: Belfast Telegraph)

Bobbies’ shame

Why did the police facilitate a sham funeral for a dead terrorist during Covid restrictions?

In Northern Ireland, indeed in the whole of the island of Ireland, bereavement and the process of grieving is extremely important. The traditional wake brings such comfort to so many loved ones who could well be in shock, trauma, fear, pain and simply at a loss. I’m sure it’s the same the world over but it has a unique tradition in Ireland which Sinn Fein knows only too well.

Looking back on my own life, wakes were critically important in helping to comfort me as a child. The collective acknowledgement of the loss and the family friend in the corner telling the room a funny story from the past. At that point, laughter amongst the tears has the most healing qualities imaginable. There is profound comfort in seeing so many folks turn up for a funeral of a dearly missed family member. They don’t have to say anything, they just have to be there.

During the pandemic the comfort families have in coming together to send off their loved one has all but stopped. Which is why it was so hurtful when Sinn Fein decided to break the rules in a giant send-off for the dead terrorist Bobby Storey. To describe the feelings of the people of Northern Ireland as anger or frustration doesn’t even come close. Sinn Fein has spread a cloak of regret and dare I say a sense of guilt to all those law abiding people who buried loved ones without giving them the service they deserved. A funeral is not something that can just be rerun after restrictions end.

Ordinary people sought guidance into what could and could not take place at the home and graveside and on what could and could not take place in the church. Ordinary people were forced to choose what brother or sister, cousin, nephew or niece could not attend the service. Ordinary people were all too aware of the cruel restrictions, yet the people who formed the restrictions, created the law and scrutinised it have made excuses to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and claimed to the Public Prosecution Service that they didn’t understand it.

It’s not that the police commander was blindsided by any of this: days before the funeral around 400 people turned up outside the wake house

When mourners were locked out of Roselawn Cemetery, Sinn Fein members in their garb were parading in their thousands in a show of strength along the streets for all to see, organising a sham funeral oration for a dead terrorist godfather at Milltown cemetery, a traditional republican burial ground. The remains were not even interned there. Sinn Fein organised travel arrangements, speaker systems, crowd control, and were “negotiating” with PSNI and asserting “Sinn Fein’s Plan” when law abiding citizens could only give an inadequate send-off for their loved one for fear of fine and criminal proceedings.

Whilst it is vitally important to concentrate on Sinn Fein, the Public Prosecution Services’ public statement on the PSNI is both incredible and damning in equal measure. Although the PSNI have struggled to enforce the draconian and ill-advised restrictions, it is extremely difficult to have any sympathy for their leadership in this operation. Instead of warning the representatives of Sinn Fein that it was highly likely if they became involved in the organisation and promotion of the funeral arrangements they would almost certainly be in breach of the restrictions, the PSNI commander having received the SF “management” plan days in advance decided to facilitate, complement and support it. These are the words used to describe the police action contained in the PPS report. The police even knew it was just an oration in a graveyard, not even a real funeral.

It’s not that the police commander was blindsided by any of this: days before the funeral around 400 people turned up outside the wake house. This is the same police force who have threatened couples walking on a beach and turned people away who had the audacity to bring a hot meal on a plate to elderly family members living alone in a neighbouring village. The Police commander received a copy of the SF “plan” days in advance which outlined in detail the sham graveside oration, traffic control, hordes of stewards and PA systems. The plan even contained details of where the media would stand for the event.

Through their actions and bad faith to the people of Northern Ireland Sinn Fein have been able to drag down, diminish and undermine the law enforcement and justice system in Northern Ireland at a time when our democratic institutions are under so much stress.

We in Northern Ireland deserve so much better.

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