funeral row  | 

PSNI investigate republican funeral in Derry for possible breach of Covid-19 rules

Images emerged yesterday of funeral cortege in Derry
Funeral of Eamonn McCourt veteran Republican in Derry.

Funeral of Eamonn McCourt veteran Republican in Derry.

Jamie McDowell

The PSNI say they are investigating a republican funeral which took place in Derry yesterday for breaching Covid-19 rules.

A large gathering of mourners made their way through the Creggan area of the city as the coffin of Eamonn 'Peggy' McCourt (62), who passed away at Altnagelvin Hospital on Saturday from Covid-19, was flanked by mourners wearing white shirts, black ties and black face masks.

The funeral gathering has sparked fury amongst Unionist politicians, as well as on social media, after the funeral of veteran Republican Bobby Storey last June was investigated by the police when senior Sinn Fein politicians, including Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, were photographed in attendance.

Funeral of Eamonn McCourt veteran Republican in Derry.

Funeral of Eamonn McCourt veteran Republican in Derry.

Under Covid-19 regulations funerals in Northern Ireland are restricted to a maximum of 25 people.

Eamonn McCourt was a former IRA man and Sinn Fein activist who was shot in 1981 by the SAS who had attacked a car the Creggan area he had been travelling in.

McCourt survived, but IRA men George McBrearty and Charles Maguire were killed.

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said that the police had engaged with family and political representatives before the funeral to give "appropriate advice in respect of the regulations".

He added: "As a result, police were given a number of assurances as to the conduct of the funeral, and that people would seek to pay their respects to the deceased from outside their homes rather than gather at the funeral.

"Regrettably at the funeral on Monday morning, a significant number of people gathered as part of the cortege, in a manner likely to be in breach of the health protection regulations.

"As a result, police have commenced an investigation into the matter, and where individuals are identified as potentially being in breach of the regulations, they will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to prosecution."

DUP Assembly member for Foyle Gary Middleton said the scenes would be greeted with “dismay by the vast majority of the public who have abided by the letter of the law throughout Covid-19”.

He added: “It is hard to put into words the sheer recklessness of those involved.

“The reality of Covid-19 is that restrictions on funerals are difficult and even painful for grieving families, but they have been put in place for an important reason. Many families have faced such grief without the wider support of family and friends present as would be the case normally.

“Within republicanism it seems that certain individuals are viewed as being more important than public health regulations.

“Such sights are most painful for relatives who have recognised the need for such painful restrictions to be put in place and have abided by them.”

DUP Policing Board member, Trevor Clarke, said: “The PSNI need to explain their actions, or repeated inaction in such situations.

“The Chief Constable needs to detail whether officers had knowledge of arrangements for this funeral and explain the inaction of police."

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said the party was not represented at the funeral and that they had hosted an online memorial instead.

The Irish flag was flown at half mast from a republican monument in Shantallow yesterday.

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