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PSNI chief constable calls in Hewitt to resolve funeral row

The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable has called in the National Police Chiefs’ Council chair to resolve a highly-charged political row over whether a funeral broke lockdown rules.

Martin Hewitt, NPCC chair, will appoint a senior officer to look into claims that PSNI did not enforce legislation restricting gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prominent republican Bobby Storey was buried in west Belfast on 30 June and senior Sinn Fein figures attended. Among them was deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

The service was restricted but hundreds of mourners lined the streets and several politicians were photographed together.

Health Minister Robin Swann, of the Ulster Unionist Party has claimed the funeral breached Covid-19 restrictions limiting mass gatherings.

"There is no person, no position and there is no point of privilege that is above the guidance and the regulations that we have laid down on how we combat Covid-19 in Northern Ireland," Mr Swann said.

DUP MP Ian Paisley has already called for Mr Byrne to resign if it is revealed that the force knew the full details about the funeral.

To settle the dispute Chief Constable Simon Byrne has called in Martin Hewitt to avoid his force being pulled further into the row and referred a complaint to the force’s ombudsman.

CC Byrne said: “I have advised the Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board that I have spoken to Martin Hewitt to request the appointment of an external senior Police Officer to oversee and direct the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s investigation of potential breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 at a funeral which took place on 30 June 2020. I have taken this decision to ensure independent oversight of the investigation.

He added: "The Police Service of Northern Ireland is also in receipt of a complaint from a member of the public regarding Police actions leading up to the funeral on 30 June 2020.  This has now been forwarded to the Police Ombudsman for her consideration."

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