No Storey inquiry but ombudsman may investigate

The justice minister has said she sees “no rationale” for a judge-led inquiry into the Bobby Storey funeral.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 4:55 pm
Naomi Long

However, Naomi Long has also suggested the police ombudsman may wish to investigate the matter.

The Alliance Party leader was responding to calls for a judge-led inquiry from Doug Beattie, the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

“There isn’t any sort of rationale given,” Mrs Long said when asked about Mr Beattie’s comments. “Obviously I’ll engage with Doug around his thinking, but there isn’t substantive rationale given as to why a further inquiry would be required.”

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She added: “The PSNI investigated the funeral thoroughly last year, they forwarded 20 funds to the PPS for prosecution.

“The PPS are now revising their original decision, which was not to prosecute those 20 cases.

“We’ll also have an extensive report from HMIC into the policing operation around the funeral.”

She added: “They have now produced a report. The chief constable is going to respond in writing to the Policing Board about that report.

“I think it’s important that we give them time to consider the chief constable’s response before we look at any other action.”

Last week, Mr Beattie said there was a need for a judge-led inquiry to close “gaps in knowledge” about the funeral, which saw thousands take to the streets of west Belfast at a time when strict Covid limits on numbers were in force.

He made the comments after an “honest and robust” meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne at police headquarters in Belfast on Friday afternoon.

He warned that power-sharing in Northern Ireland could collapse if unanswered questions around the funeral are not addressed.

Yesterday, Mrs Long suggested his calls for a “short and sharp” judge-led inquiry were not realistic.

She told ‘Sunday Politics’ on BBC One: “There is, in my mind, no such thing as a short, sharp judge-led inquiry.

“As soon as they go to an inquiry, it would have to be on to the terms of the Public Inquiries Act and, as we know from RHI, that was anything but short and sharp.”

However, she said the office of the police ombudsman may well wish to investigate.

“It’s for the ombudsman to judge on the basis of the evidence and the complaints that are brought to her, whether or not she will, for example, do a thematic investigation.”