DUP representatives on the Policing Board have pressed the Police Ombudsman to confirm that an ongoing investigation into how PSNI have enforced the Covid-19 regulations at large public gatherings will also extend to policing activity relating to republican funerals during the pandemic.
Commenting, DUP East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting said:
‘‘If the Office of the Police Ombudsman is to investigate the PSNI's handling of large gatherings, then in the interests of fairness and public confidence it is now imperative that all large public gatherings – including those in clear breach of social distancing regulations at republican funerals -are included in the scope of the review.
Serious concerns have been expressed in local communities about the consistency of approach taken by the PSNI in enforcing the law during the Covid-19 pandemic. The police need to demonstrate there is no two-tier approach and disprove the view that they only take action on the easy options.
We in the DUP have repeatedly raised concerns about the hands-off policing approach adopted at these events in contrast to potentially overzealous enforcement elsewhere. The stark reality is that this terrible virus does not respect large gatherings no matter the cause or circumstances.
The law is clear on this issue and the public deserve to see proactive, consistent and well-explained policing activity in order to uphold it.’’
DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey added:
‘‘Whilst a positive development, the timing and scope of this independent review is curious and raises further unanswered questions.
Why it has taken so long given that widespread concerns around policing activity at republic funerals and other events have been on record for many weeks? Why have recent high-profile protests been the catalyst, when the law is clear on all large gatherings?
Ultimately it is vital that the investigation extends to all Covid-19 policing activity connected to large gatherings. Consistency is important not just in the actions taken by police officers but also in how we hold them to account.’’