East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said,
The words and actions of senior SF personnel including Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill both at the Bobby Storey funeral and subsequent to it have very grave long-term potential consequences for Northern Ireland.
It is very clear that despite SF's denial, Covid-19 regulations regarding funerals were broken. The anger felt by many was compounded by the fact that the person charged with introducing the regulations. and who repeatedly demanded that everyone else abide by them, broke them herself. Michelle O'Neill's failed attempt at a half-hearted apology in aggressive tones only made matters worse.
There have been repeated calls for her to step aside, and these have come from across the political divide, it is abundantly clear as I thought it would be at the very outset, that she has no intention of doing so. The display of arrogance has now meant they have cornered themselves in such a way that they are not going to get themselves out easily. Their total subservience to the violent past of the ‘republican movement’ has meant that even the newer and younger generation of Irish Republicans cannot step away from the deeply flawed and deviant analysis that portrays murderers and bombers as ‘heroes’, engaging in revisionism as they always do.
The Stormont system is such that if SF won't step aside they can only be forced out if the First Minister were to resign also. Northern Ireland would then be plunged into yet another stand-off like the last one which SF engineered. It lasted three years. Wide sections of society were deeply angered at how long it lasted and the damage done during that period.
In the knowledge of neither a voluntary or enforced resignation being workable there will undoubtedly be demands for ‘Direct Rule’. This needs Her Majesty’s Government to be willing to introduce such a measure. We witnessed over the last three year period that they are not willing to adopt such a strategy.
Since SF have adopted such a disgraceful and dangerous attitude it means not just Unionists, but every other political party has to consider how to proceed. A big advantage is that SF has completely isolated itself in a way seldom seen in recent years, and not because of current views or actions but because of their continued clinging to their view of the past. They have done this even when it jeopardises the health of people in this pandemic.
The impasse now in place will mean more ‘silo decision making’ as other Ministers will decide that SF are not reforming from their view of the past, Government has to continue and therefore it will do so but in a disjointed fashion. This will lead to further friction and continued disputes. Profuse apologies to other political parties are not the issue but should be made in sincerity to those families feeling deep hurt, this would be a start. This festering sore can only be healed when SF demonstrate how they will act in the future, rather than trying to re-write the past.