Bobby Storey funeral: Councillors pledge not to let investigation be ‘kicked into long grass’ or ‘swept under carpet’

Councillors in Belfast have pledged that the pending investigation into exactly what went wrong during the funeral of IRA intelligence chief Bobby Storey will not be “kicked into the long grass”.

By Adam Kula
Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 8:00 am
Bobby Storey's funeral in west Belfast, before his coffin was taken to Roselawn
Bobby Storey's funeral in west Belfast, before his coffin was taken to Roselawn

It comes as it appears no-one has been appointed yet to lead the independent inquiry into the goings-on at Roselawn crematorium – a council-run facility where Mr Storey’s mourners were permitted to gather on June 30.

The decision to allow a service at the crematorium for the IRA man stood in contrast with the council’s refusal to allow similar services for any of the other eight families whose loved ones were being cremated that day.

The council has already admitted this was a mistake and apologised.

But an internal report into the matter (which the council refused to distribute but which the News Letter obtained anyway) failed to satisfy council members who were angered by what they saw as preferential treatment for the IRA leader’s family and comrades.

The internal council report acknowledged mistakes, but absolved the council of “political intent in decision-making” around the funeral.

Councillor George Dorrian (who heads up the 15-strong DUP delegation on the council) had previously been quoted in the News Letter as saying that “in an ideal world” the independent report would be done by the end of July.

This now looks like an extremely remote possibility.

But he told the News Letter: “It’ll be rapid. I don’t have an exact time frame.

“You have a community there who are still very angry.

“I can assure you there is no danger of it being kicked into the long grass at all – certainly not.

“I’m more concerned about getting it right. You have to get it right. It does take a bit of time to get it set up and everything. We’re content things are moving.”

It is thought that a number of lawyers may be in the frame as potential leaders of the investigation.

Meanwhile Michael Long, group leader of the 10-strong Alliance contingent on the council (which favoured the idea of an independent report), said it had been “highly optimistic” for anyone to imagine the report would be finished by the end of the month.

But he added: “I want to see answers as quick as possible.

“Obviously just with the holiday period, I guess trying to get somebody suitable to do the job is going to take a little bit of time.

“But certainly we would in want, in the terms of reference, a very short, sharp review to happen.

“We’re pushing for this to be done as quickly as possible.

“I’d be disappointed if we don’t have somebody appointed by the end of the month.

“[But] I’d say it’d be optimistic to get it done by the end of August to be honest with you – that’d be very optimistic.”

He said the Frawley Report into bonfires in the city council area a couple of years ago had “dragged on” for about six months, and “everybody wants something more quickly done than that” – and that it would be unacceptable to have the matter swept “down the line and under the carpet”.

It is believed that the matter will be discussed at a meeting of party group leaders this week, and at a meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee next Friday.

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