PPS recognition of public hurt caused by IRA funeral does not reduce the great harm done to rule of law by shameful saga

News Letter editorial of Friday June 11 2021:

Friday, 11th June 2021, 6:38 am
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 6:48 am
News Letter editorial

When prosecutors upheld their decision yesterday not to take action against Sinn Fein politicians over last year’s Bobby Storey funeral, they referred to public feeling.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) official Marianne O’Kane, who reviewed the original prosecutorial decision, said she understood “how difficult it is for many to reconcile the crowd scenes captured so publicly at the funeral of Mr Storey with the outcome that no prosecutions are directed for any breach of the regulations”.

The PPS director Stephen Herron said that their “need for objectivity in decision-making does not mean that we cannot recognise the depth of public feeling and hurt”.

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These comments do not in detract from the deep damage that this disgraceful episode has done to the image of the PPS.

And prosecutors alone are not damaged by the way in which those who set Covid rules got away with a massive social distancing breach. So are the PSNI, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Belfast City Council, and Stormont MLAs who rushed through rule changes just before an IRA criminal’s funeral was given elaborate police assistance.

The obvious wrongness of the event is evident from the fact that only a tiny fraction of the loved ones of the 30,000+ people who have died in Northern Ireland since March last year have tried to ignore Covid advice on funerals. What an insult the Storey funeral was to such people, who wanted to express their own grief at a full ceremony, but obediently did not do so. Above all how upsetting it must have been to the many people whose lives were ruined by the IRA to see this terrorist and robber get special PSNI treatment, first in west Belfast, then though the closure of Roselawn, courtesy of Belfast City Council — the latter for reasons that are still unclear.

At the helm that day was Michelle O’Neill, the deputy first minister, who has been defiant about it ever since, and who as recently as yesterday was telling everyone else that they can’t do things like go to concerts.

A shameful saga that has greatly harmed public perception of lockdown and the rule of law.

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Alistair Bushe