Large crowds at republican funeral ‘abandoned Covid-19 duty to our community’ says Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader and MP for Foyle, Colum Eastwood, has accused those who allegedly breached Covid-19 regulations while attending the funeral of a veteran Irish republican of letting the local community down.
Funeral of Eamonn McCourt in Londonderry on Monday. (Photo: Pacemaker)Funeral of Eamonn McCourt in Londonderry on Monday. (Photo: Pacemaker)
Funeral of Eamonn McCourt in Londonderry on Monday. (Photo: Pacemaker)

Former IRA man, Eamonn McCourt, 62, passed away in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry at the weekend and his death was recorded as Covid-19 related which means he died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

He was a former prisoner, and had been shot by the army in 1981 while travelling with two other paramilitaries, who were killed.

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“I understand the grief that this family is experiencing,” said Mr. Eastwood.

“We have all experienced the trauma of loss during the pandemic.

“But those who gathered in this large crowd outside of the restrictions have abandoned their duty to their neighbours and to our community,” declared the SDLP leader.

Mr. Eastwood also reflected on how the scenes witnessed at the funeral will upset all those families who adhered to Covid-19 restrictions when laying loved ones to rest throughout the pandemic.

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“The scenes from this funeral are heartbreaking,” said Mr. Eastwood.

“Thousands of families across our communities, and hundreds in Derry alone, have sacrificed the right to say goodbye to their loved ones during this crisis.

“They have acted selflessly to protect their neighbours and friends and pictures like these will feel like a slap in the face.”

Mr. Eastwood appealed for people to follow the regulations as they are designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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“My message to people in all of our communities is simple – please do not gather in large crowds. It is not safe and by doing it, you’re risking the lives of everyone you come into contact with.”

The PSNI has confirmed it investigating potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations at the funeral.

Over the weekend, police became aware of a funeral, planned for Monday 25 January, which had the potential to draw a significant number of people,” said PSNI chief superintendent Darrin Jones.

“As a result, police engaged with representatives of the family of the deceased, the local church and local political representatives.

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“Across these engagements, police emphasised the need for adherence to the current health protection regulations. As a result, police were given a number of assurances as to the conduct of the funeral, and that people would seek to pay their respects to the deceased from outside their homes rather than gather at the funeral.

“Regrettably at the funeral on Monday morning, a significant number of people gathered as part of the cortège, in a manner likely to be in breach of the health protection regulations. As a result, police have commenced an investigation into the matter, and where individuals are identified as potentially being in breach of the regulations, they will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to prosecution.”