First Minister Arlene Foster tells of ‘disappointment’ at PSNI probe into breach of Covid-19 regulations at loyalist funeral

First Minister Arlene Foster has told of her disappointment at PSNI investigating potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations at a loyalist funeral last Friday - January 29.

It has been reported that a large crowd gathered for the funeral of Hugh Hill, a former senior UVF figure who died last week.

Loyalist sources said ‘it was a full UVF funeral with a colour party and a piper”.

According to a report in the BBC, the PSNI said they had spoken to Mr Hill’s family as well as community representatives beforehand.

But they added a significant number of people still gathered for the cortege.

Under Northern Ireland’s current coronavirus restrictions, no more than 25 people are allowed to attend the services.

No pre or post-funeral gatherings are permitted either and wakes cannot take place.

Chief Insp Darren Fox said officers had “emphasised the need for adherence to the current health protection regulations and sought assurances from those with influence” when talking to all those involved in the funeral arrangements.

A funeral hearse

“Regrettably at the funeral on Friday morning, a significant number of people gathered as part of the cortege, in a manner likely to be in breach of the health protection regulations,” he said.

“As a result, police have commenced an investigation into the matter, evidence has been gathered, and where individuals are identified as potentially being in breach of the regulations, they will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service.”

This morning speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, DUP leader Mrs Foster said it was a “huge disappointment” that people are not abiding by the health regulations.

She said: “The rest of us abide by the rules and yet there are groups of people who believe they are above the rules and that is wrong.

“Everybody is equal under the law and therefore police should proceed with investigations into [Friday’s] funeral just as I called for investigations into republican funerals that have been taking place as well.”

Mrs Foster added that it was her understanding that police had spoken to the organisers of Hill’s funeral but her party wants to know what was said during that conversation.

“We cannot be facilitating people to break rules, I think that is the key point to all of this,” she continued.

“The rules must be applied equally across society and actually that’s why people are so very annoyed at the moment when they see other people breaching the rules whilst they’re keeping to the rules.”

The First Minister also said the PSNI must take action against those who break the guidelines and looks forward to seeing that “in the very near future”.

“We were told last week when we met the Chief Constable that they are investigating the situation in Londonderry and we’re told now they’re investigating the funeral on Friday,” said Mrs Foster.

“We await to see what happens but of course justice needs to be speedy and people need to see action and therefore, we look forward to seeing that action in the very near future.”

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