Independent investigation into Storey funeral to report in six weeks

Thousands attended the funeral of senior republican and IRA member in west Belfast. Credit: Liam McBurney / PA Wire / PA Images

An independent probe into events at a Belfast cemetery on the day that veteran republican Bobby Storey was cremated is set to report in six weeks.

Scenes of mass gatherings in west Belfast at Mr Storey's funeral despite restrictions as part of the coronavirus regulations sparked outrage in June.

Further upset was caused over access granted to Roselawn Cemetery on a day when eight other families were denied access due to pandemic measures.

Belfast City Council apologised to those families.

Eight other families were denied access to Roselawn Cemetery on the day of Bobby Storey's funeral due to pandemic measures. Credit: Liam McBurney / PA Wire / PA Images

The council also ordered an independent investigation into the handling of the funeral at Roselawn Cemetery which will be led by lawyer Peter Coll QC.

It will report back in six weeks' time.

The terms of reference include 14 concerns.

The first of these is whether any preferential treatment was sought to accommodate the cremation of Mr Storey by political representatives or others acting on behalf of the family.

The list of concerns also includes whether "control" of the cemetery was handed to persons acting on behalf of the Storey family, using CCTV to examine numbers present and the decision to send council staff home.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she is sorry “grieving families are experiencing more hurt”. Credit: Liam McBurney / PA Wire / PA Images

Mr Coll has also been asked to "review when and if decisions were communicated to elected representatives, which elected representatives they were communicated to and when they were so communicated".

In a statement, Belfast City Council said families affected by events at Roselawn will be given the opportunity to speak to Mr Coll directly.

"Party Group Leaders on Belfast City Council have agreed to the release of the Roselawn investigation terms of reference," the statement reads.

"These incorporate the issues raised by the political parties within council following the decision to commission an independent investigation, and have been approved by all of those parties which supported that decision."

Former Sinn Féin chairman Bobby Storey died in June after an unsuccessful lung transplant. Credit: PA

It continued: "The terms of reference provide scope for additional issues to be raised between Party Group Leaders and Peter Coll QC.

"Council will ensure that any relatives of families impacted may speak directly with Mr Coll QC should they wish to do so.

"Council will be in touch with family representatives in the coming days to facilitate arrangements should they wish such a meeting to take place."

Meanwhile, Mark Webster, deputy chief constable of Cumbria Constabulary, will oversee and direct the PSNI's investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 restrictions at Mr Storey's funeral.