DUP should be wary of pinning too much blame for Bobby Storey funeral on Simon Bryne

News Letter editorial of Thursday April 1 2021:

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 12:18 pm
News Letter editorial

The funeral of Bobby Storey happened nine months ago almost to the day.

Republicans might well hope that the extraordinary decision of the Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute anyone is the end of the matter.

Mary Lou McDonald said as much yesterday, and she might even be right. The PPS is to review its decision, but generally such decisions are not overturned.

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But even if this is the end of the formal process of investigation of the flagrant mass distancing breach, the poison in a way is only beginning to spread now. The investigations and decision making processes took ridiculously long, given that hundreds of people have been fined on the spot for breaches and others, such as Rangers supporters, caught on camera, were questioned by police within days.

But while the probes were ongoing, there was a sense that some justice would follow. No such justice has happened.

Yesterday the lawyer and Sinn Fein MP John Finucane said that he was confused by the law around funerals on June 30 last year, which the prosecutors (in effect) said was understandable.

Perhaps that is what the PPS thinks in its reading of the detail of the laws. Most other people will view that with contempt. They understood lockdown clearly, which is why so many funerals were heavily curtailed and why there has been no public gathering in a year in NI as big as the terror funeral.

The DUP is entitled to take its time to decide on the best way forward. Its options are limited. But it needs to be wary about pinning too much blame on the chief constable.

Simon Byrne has at times seemed weak in carrying out his duties. But the PPS has serious questions to answer about its assessment. The ramifcations of its conclusion that the regulations were hard to follow will take time to fully absorb.

How though can the PSNI plausibly penalise people for enjoying themselves outside the regulations this weekend?

There is also a much wider issue than the police and PPS. An overall culture of appeasing republicans is destabilising this society.

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Alistair Bushe

Editor