Council apologises to families denied same size funeral as Bobby Storey

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by David Young, PA

Belfast City Council has apologised to eight families who were denied the same size of cremation service as IRA veteran Bobby Storey on the day of his funeral.

It has emerged that Mr Storey's service at Roselawn Cemetery in east Belfast last Tuesday was the only one of nine that day where 30 people were allowed to attend an outdoor service on site.

The other eight were restricted to 10 people.

The coronavirus regulations on outdoor gatherings in Northern Ireland changed from 10 to 30 people late on Monday.

The council said it took an operational decision to apply the new restriction from Mr Storey's cremation onwards - 3.30pm on Tuesday afternoon.

This meant that eight cremations which took place earlier on Tuesday were restricted to 10 people, even though the law had already been changed to allow 30.

The council said its decision was an "error of judgment".

(Hundreds flocked to west Belfast before the funeral of republican Bobby Storey)

The council had already faced criticism last week after it emerged that some staff had been sent home early from Roselawn ahead of Mr Storey's cremation.

The latest revelations were aired on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

The council said: "Executive regulations were changed for outdoor services on Monday night (29th June) - coming into effect at 11pm.

"We were informed by the Executive Office on Monday afternoon, enabling us to start communications with funeral directors. This is normal practice.

"This was a rapidly changing environment, as has been the case during the response to Covid-19 as rules changes frequently.

"An operational decision was made that, for cremations, the new procedures would apply from the cremation of Bobby Storey onwards.

"We accept in hindsight that this was an error of judgment. This meant that only one of the nine cremation services on Tuesday had 30 people in attendance; there were four burial services and these burial services had up to 30 in attendance. There were eight cremation services affected.

"We are contacting these families and are deeply sorry for how this error will have affected them."

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