The DUP’s representatives on the Policing Board have expressed deep anger at the Chief Constable’s failure to apologise for the PSNI’s role in thwarting the prosecution of individuals who broke the law at the funeral of Bobby Storey.
Commenting after challenging the Chief Constable to recognise the damage police actions have caused to public confidence, DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said:
‘‘Across Northern Ireland, people are aghast at the compliance of the police in facilitating the most public display by republicans to glorify an IRA man on the streets of Northern Ireland in a generation.
The Chief Constable should apologise to those many hundreds of families who buried their loved in keeping with the spirit and letter of the law and were not afforded the privilege of police acquiescence or police assistance. I am saddened and angered that he has refused to do so.
It is worth remembering that after the PSNI operations at Black Lives Matter protests, and scenes on the Ormeau Road, the Chief Constable rushed to issue an apology and humiliated two of his own officers in the process. Yet when he decided to meet a man convicted of the heinous murders Corporals Wood and Howe on the eve of its anniversary, there was no apology for the insensitivity displayed toward innocent victims.
Confidence in policing has been decimated as a result of police actions. The Chief Constable’s failure to say sorry is shameful.’’
East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting added:
‘‘For many in the Unionist community the revelation that police actions frustrated attempts to prosecute senior Sinn Fein officials is further evidence that we have moved beyond two-tier policing to two-tier justice. It is abhorrent that there is one rule for republicans and another for everybody else.
Serious questions about the extent of the PSNI’s engagement with the organisers remain unanswered. Did senior officers know that the return of the remains and the hours of the wake were being widely publicised on social media to encourage people to come? If so was this ignored? Were they certain that the stewards and security company taking part in the procession were not part of or linked to a proscribed organization?
It is crucial that we establish all of the facts so something like this can never happen again. I welcome broad support for the HMIC investigation and await the outcome.’’
South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke continued:
‘‘It’s not hard to feel sorry for the rank-and-file police officers who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic but whose role has been compromised by the rudderless leadership of the PSNI’s senior command team.
ACC Todd claims it would have been unsafe to send officers to enforce the rules outside the wake house, where 400 people had gathered illegally, but what steps were taken to gather evidence, identify those responsible and issue retrospective fines? It is also clear that the PSNI were in receipt of the Sinn Fein management plan, which included plans for 30 invited guests and 94 persons in proximity of the republican plot at Milltown Cemetery, but did nothing to warn organisers that this could breach the limit on public gatherings.
The reality is that not only did this policing operation fail miserably - it has prevented justice from being served. The Alliance Party’s John Blair suggested today that the PPS exonerated the PSNI from any wrongdoing but he should bear in mind that the same report found police actions to provide a reasonable defence to those intent on breaking the law. That should never be justified and cannot be swept under the carpet.’’
West Tyrone MLA Tom Buchanan also attended to today’s meeting. He concluded:
‘‘It is astonishing to hear senior PSNI officers say they didn’t respond or endorse the management plan for the funeral of Bobby Storey when the PPS report states in black and white that the police requested a meeting with the Sinn Fein organiser to ensure “a good mutual understanding of the plan…and ensure consistent messaging.” This version of events simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
The DUP looks forward to a full and independent investigation of the PSNI’s handling of the events prior to, and during, the funeral and reiterates our view that the position of any senior officer involved in the decision-making which led to a thwarting of prosecutions is untenable.’’