Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister is refusing to stand aside while police investigate social distancing breaches at a funeral in Belfast.
Michelle O’Neill joined senior Sinn Féin members including Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse Doherty and Gerry Adams at the funeral of 64-year-old former IRA member Bobby Storey on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people failed to observe social distancing as they lined the streets for the funeral procession.
Ms O’Neill has insisted she followed public health guidelines while attending the funeral and accused her rivals of “political point-scoring.”
The Green Party, the SDLP, the UUP, the DUP and the Alliance Party have all called for her to stand aside while police review images of the memorial.
However, a Sinn Féin spokesperson has insisted she will not stand aside under any circumstances.
This morning, the DUPs Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC's Nolan Show that she should stand down during the investigation.
“I think in light of the failure of Sinn Féin yesterday to grasp the opportunity to apologise, it is our view that the Deputy first Minister must now step back from her role while these matters are investigated by the PSNI,” he said.
He said his party leader Arlene Foster had written to Ms O’Neill urging her to stand aside and had asked the Assembly standards authorities to examine whether the MLAs who attended the funeral broke the Stormont code of conduct.
The SDLP leader Colm Eastwood is also calling for Ms O’Neill to stand aside.
“She absolutely should step aside,” he said. “She should report herself to the Assembly standards authority and it is not just Michelle, it is the other people within that Executive who were there blatantly disregarding their own rules.”
He said his call was “not about politics.”
“It is about the people out there who were asked by Michelle O’Neill to abide by the rules and then the Sinn Féin leadership en-masse totally rejected those rules,” he said. “They set them aside.”
Meanwhile, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Sinn Féin leadership appears to take a different approach to social distancing guidelines than everyone else.
“Politicians try to lead by example,” he said. “We try to follow the rules and regulations that we make and we expect other people to make,” he said.
“But I do think there was a huge contrast that we saw last Saturday where the Taoiseach Micheál Martin became Taoiseach and his family couldn’t travel from Cork to be with him. In contrast Michelle O’Neill turned up for the photo-op.
“It does show a different attitude to public health.”
On Newstalk Breakfast yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy claimed Fine Gael was “using the funeral of a very well-liked and much-loved man for political ends.”
Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty told Pat Kenny that the party did everything it could to maintain social distancing at the funeral.