Orange Order responds to Bobby Storey funeral verdict - ‘how can members of the public be expected to follow rules which do not apply to everyone?’

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has expressed its deep concern at the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision not to bring charges against members of Sinn Fein and others who participated in the funeral of Bobby Storey last June.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 10:56 am
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 11:10 am

The funeral in June attracted 2,000 mourners - including Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill - at a time when Covid restrictions were in place.

The actions of 24 Sinn Féin politicians were examined by the PPS, including Ms O’Neill.

On Wednesday, the PPS announced a review of its decision.

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The scenes at the Bobby Storey funeral caused a political furore

Mr Storey, 64, was a senior republican figure and had formerly been the head of intelligence for the IRA in the 1990s.

The attendance of many senior Sinn Féin politicians at his funeral in west Belfast, at a time when strict limits on gatherings were in place, caused a political furore.

In a statement the Orange Order said: “The funeral – which was effectively an orchestrated republican show of strength - took place at a time when maintaining public confidence in the Covid-19 restrictions was of paramount importance. This single event, more than any other, undermined that confidence and clearly illustrated Sinn Fein’s total disregard for the regulations the rest of society were required to adhere to.

“The recent PPS decision signals that Republicans are above the law. In this case, they were above the law they themselves had played a central role in laying down for others to follow and obey. How can members of the public be expected to follow rules which do not apply to everyone?

“There can be no doubt that this decision greatly undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The statement added: “The fact that consultation took place with the PSNI before the funeral is also of great concern, particularly as that interaction has seemingly helped those, who so clearly breached Covid-19 regulations, avoid prosecution.

“The Orange community is no stranger to frustration and disappointment in relation to decisions by PPS. On a number of occasions, we have been let down by PPS and their decisions not to prosecute those who have carried out hate crimes against our organisation - even when clear evidence was available.

“The Chief Constable and the Director of Public Prosecution both must face robust challenge as to their organisation’s role in this debacle and the damage their decisions have caused to public confidence in the criminal justice system.

“Attempts to make excuses or blame confusion around the regulations simply further undermine the credibility and indeed tenability of both positions.

“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of people who obeyed the rules. Those who stayed at home, did not attend the funerals of loved ones, missed out on giving their support to their neighbours and could not pay their respects to those who had suffered great loss.

“Every family who suffered loss, but obeyed the rules are the victims of this reckless law breaking by the Republican movement. They have been further let down by a discredited justice system.”