The process of reconciliation on this island was seriously damaged when Sinn Féin organised a mass gathering at a time when Covid restrictions were in place for public health safety, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Emer Currie, a Dublin West Senator who has lived North and South and is daughter of NI civil rights leader and SDLP co-founder Austin Currie, criticised Sinn Féin’s role in the events of June 30 last when the party organised a mass graveside oration at Belfast’s Milltown cemetery – despite the fact that no burial took place.
Senator Currie said, “The news that Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has acknowledged her and Sinn Féin’s role in undermining public health messaging by attending the Bobby Storey funeral event in June, is an important step in owning up to the hurt felt in Northern Ireland.
“The inquiry by the PSNI will shed light on any laws that were broken but there is no pretence, in the North, that it was an ordinary funeral.
“Missing from reports about the event is the impact it had on the process of reconciliation in the North.
“The Good Friday Agreement has, at its heart, institutions that bring together different identities to make and influence decisions as one, to try to build an inclusive community. The coming together of green and orange to fight Covid-19 was an opportunity for real partnership and joint leadership, when too often identity politics keep them apart.
“Sinn Fein compromised that opportunity entirely by putting the celebration of a leading figure in the violent republican community before the needs of the entire community.
“Even in a pandemic when the whole world is saying we are in it together, Sinn Féin unapologetically put tribal politics first.
“The Storey funeral event was a kick in the stomach to anyone truly committed to reconciliation.
“The First Minister and Deputy First Minister yesterday shared a public platform together for the first time in three months – months after the executive reformed in January of this year after a three year collapse.
“If Sinn Fein really believes in a shared island, reconciliation needs to come first,” Senator Currie concluded.