Storey funeral: Police rank-and-file body says politicians must shoulder blame

The Police Federation has said that the Province’s political leadership must shoulder their fair share of the blame for how the Storey funeral controversy played out.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 9:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:01 am
Mark Lindsay, Chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published its report into the affair yesterday, stating that preventing disorder had been the primary focus of the force on the day the former IRA enforcer was buried, and basically clearing the police of any significant wrongdoing.

The federation, which acts as a de facto union for the PSNI’s rank-and-file officers, said at the root of the matter was the bewildering array of Covid regulations police were supposed to enforce – so bewildering that they surpassed understanding, according to the Public Prosecution Service.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) says that whilst the episode should result in lessons being learnt for the PSNI, the Stormont Executive cannot duck its responsibilities.

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The federation’s chairman Mark Lindsay said: “As well as supporting the actions taken by the PSNI, this HMIC report is at pains to point out the ‘confusing’ health regulations which officers were expected to enforce.

“It is acknowledged that these health regulations were difficult to interpret.

“In a situation where there was a glaring lack of clarity, there was an inevitability that it would cause difficulty.

“The Executive must bear some of the responsibility for what happened.

“The framing of the health regulations was poor.

“All of which means that ministers cannot absolve themselves or hold a position that they did all they could to give direction and certainty.

“As police officers, we are charged with policing in a very difficult environment and there are recommendations in this report with regard to how PSNI can improve their processes.

“What happened at the funeral contrasted sharply with how other funerals were handled and how mourners should behave.

“The fall-out has been damaging and the task now is to rebuild trust and relationships.”

The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly issued a statement which echoed this, saying: “The HMIC report published today confirms the invidious and impossible position that police officers were placed in.

“As is often the case, those tasked with managing difficult public order situations have become the focal point for political anger.

“The failures that day, and since, rest entirely with political leaders.”

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party’s John Blair rounded on unionists, who had called for the chief constable to resign.

He said: “It is the responsibility of everyone to help build confidence in policing.

“It is not good enough for elected representatives and others to simply take perceived grievances and amplify them – it is up to them to lead and follow due process to allow the police to be properly scrutinised, instead of jumping on a bandwagon.”

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