Foyle MLA Gary Middleton has reiterated calls to address two-tier policing during the pandemic after pictures emerged of a large crowd gathering at the funeral of veteran republican Eamonn McCourt in Londonderry in breach of Covid regulations.
Mr Middleton said,
"These scenes from another republican funeral will be greeted with dismay by the vast majority of the public who have abided by the letter of the law throughout Covid-19.
It is hard to put into words the sheer recklessness of those involved. This is compounded by the fact that Mr McCourt passed away after contracting Covid-19 and at the funeral it was stated his death had brought 'the reality' of coronavirus to the community.
The reality of Covid-19 is that restrictions on funerals are difficult and even painful for grieving families, but they have been put in place for an important reason. Many families have faced such grief without the wider support of family and friends present as would be the case normally. Countless people have made the difficult decision to find an alternative way to pay their respects because they know the risks associated with such public gatherings and to ensure they complied with the law.
Within republicanism it seems that certain individuals are viewed as being more important than public health regulations. In those minds the reality of Covid-19 has not been brought home, or at the very least it is viewed as less important than having a public display at a funeral. Such sights are most painful for relatives who have recognised the need for such painful restrictions to be put in place and have abided by them."
South Antrim MLA and Policing Board member Trevor Clarke added,
"The PSNI need to explain their actions, or repeated inaction in such situations. The Chief Constable needs to detail whether officers had knowledge of arrangements for this funeral and explain the inaction of police. Incidents such as this do nothing to remove the appearance of two-tier policing which the PSNI is always so keen to dismiss. Without clear answers it will only serve to further erode public confidence.
Public health regulations apply equally to everyone and they should be enforced equally. No-one is above the law and when the law is breached so publicly there must be an expectation that prosecution will follow."