Unionist MLA 'really worried' about large crowds on July 12th following funeral controversy


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.36 4 Jul 2020


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An Ulster Unionist Party MLA says he's "really worried" large groups of people may now gather on July 12th following the controversy over Bobby Storey's funeral.

Doug Beattie says bonfires that weren't meant to go ahead due to the pandemic are now being built.

It comes after large crowds lined the streets for the funeral for the prominent republican in Belfast earlier this week, with senior members of Sinn Féin among those who walked in the funeral cortege.

Amid widespread suggestions that social distancing guidelines were not followed, Sinn Féin leaders have insisted they followed public health guidelines.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, who was among those who attended the funeral, has apologised to any grieving families who are "experiencing more hurt over recent days".

However, that apology has been rejected by First Minister Arlene Foster.

Doug Beattie told Newstalk Breakfast that his party is calling for an independent inquiry.

Unionist MLA 'really worried' about large crowds on July 12th following funeral controversy

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He said: "At the centre of this, there is a grieving family. I may not have liked the way Bobby Storey lived his life, but grief is universal - and his family is grieving. We must acknowledge that.

"But Sinn Féin turned that funeral into a circus. Every single guideline and rule they told us that we had to stick to as citizens in Northern Ireland... they absolutely ignored and did their own thing."

Bobby Storey funeral The funeral procession of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey, 30-06-2020. Image: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

He stressed the controversy is "not about politics" - stressing that many members of the public have been unable to attend funerals of loved ones in recent weeks and months.

Mr Beattie said he's now "really worried" large crowds may gather for events on Twelfth of July later this month.

He observed: "There are many places who had traditional bonfires who decided they would not have those traditional bonfires because of this pandemic... because of what happened, bonfires are starting to be built.

"There are independent parades which are taking place - some of that is because the guidelines have been relaxed slightly, some of that is because of what Sinn Féin did and the Deputy First Minister did in regards to Bobby Storey's funeral."

He called on people to "act responsibly and adhere to the guidelines".

He also noted to say the Orange Order have been 'fast out of the traps' to say they won't be organising parades - and have instead asked people to stay in their homes to listen to any bands who do march.

Main image: Doug Beattie. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Archive/PA Images

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