PPS upholds decision not to prosecute Storey funeral attendees

The Public Prosecutions Service has upheld its original decision not to charge 24 Sinn Féin members in relation to attendance at the funeral of former IRA leader Bobby Storey.

Thousands of people lined the streets of west Belfast for the funeral last June, when strict Covid-19 rules on public gatherings were in place.

In March, prosecutors said there would be no further action taken against attendees.

However, three formal requests prompted a review into that decision.

The evidence has been examined over a period of around 10 weeks by the PPS’s Senior Assistant Director Marianne O’Kane, who was not involved in the original case.

Having upheld the earlier decision, she said there were two key factors in the evidence not providing a reasonable prospect of conviction in the event of pursuing prosecutions.

They were “a lack of clarity and coherence within the regulations in place on the exact date in question, and the nature of engagement between organisers and the PSNI in advance of the funeral”.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Bobby Storey’s funeral Credit: left

“I can understand how difficult it is for many to reconcile the crowd scenes captured so publicly at the funeral of Mr Storey with the outcome that no prosecutions are directed for any breach of the regulations,” Ms O’Kane said.

“Whilst I appreciate concerns that what occurred was at least against the spirit of the law and public health guidance, the potential for prosecutions can only be assessed in light of the criminal law in force at the particular point in time.”

While the decision may bring an end to the discussion around potential prosecutions, the political reverberations and fall-out surrounding the funeral continue.