Mervyn Storey: Inspectorate report into Bobby Storey funeral is a missed opportunity for full accountability

A statement from the DUP MLA and Policing Board member Mervyn Storey:

Monday, 17th May 2021, 11:51 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 11:56 pm
A crowd listens to Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein speak at the funeral of the IRA man Bobby Storey at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast last June. "The fact remains that breaches of the regulations took place at the funeral," writes Mervyn Storey. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

There should be further examination of the actions of the chief constable and other senior officers in light of the findings of the inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) into the PSNI’s handling of the Bobby Storey funeral.

The unionist community, as well as every family who made huge personal sacrifices to abide by the restrictions on funerals during the pandemic, will rightly view this report with scepticism.

Inspectors found that the PSNI made preventing disorder their top priority, whilst avoiding Covid breaches was a ‘distant third’. It is staggering, therefore, despite such hard evidence of officers’ kowtowing to the threat of violence, that HMIC claim these are not serious failings and do not meet the threshold for censure or resignations.

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This is a missed opportunity for full accountability.

The fact remains that breaches of the regulations took place. In the handling of the Storey funeral, the four Es approach — engage, explain, encourage and enforce —was not in operation either in the lead up to, or during, the events themselves.

It was one rule for Sinn Fein and their supporters, and another for everyone else.

As is acknowledged in this report, the PSNI’s actions have seriously undermined public confidence in policing. Without a clear plan and decisive action by the PSNI to restore trust, the damage may soon be irreparable.

I know the Party Leader Designate has already spoken with the Chief Constable over the weekend to highlight this.

It is now imperative that the Policing Board establishes a process to examine the impact of police failings on support for the police and rule of law, not just in the context of the Storey funeral but in relation to allegations of two-tier policing in the policing of parades and protests.

The Board is also the disciplinary authority for officers at Assistant Chief Constable rank and above and there is scope for a fuller investigation of the role of individual members of the PSNI senior command in the Storey funeral. This is warranted and cannot simply be ignored for political expediency.

We await the outcome of the review into the PPS decision not to prosecute and there is also a duty on the Police Ombudsman to give these matters due diligence going forward. These issues cannot be side-stepped. Faith in the criminal justice system needs to be restored.

If Sinn Fein had any sense of shame there should have been resignations following their wilful breach of the law.

Confirmation that Gerry Kelly refused to cooperate fully with inspectors, whilst not surprising, is further evidence of the clear contempt in which the republican movement holds the wider public they claim to represent.

Mervyn Storey, DUP North Antrim MLA

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