The news that the Crown Prosecution Service will not be prosecuting anyone over the Bobby Storey funeral last June will shock nobody. To be clear, nobody will be shocked cos that’s how Norn Iron works.
In strict legalistic terms, the statement issued by CPS is probably correct.
They cite two reasons for inaction. One is more credible than the other.
1…the restrictions had been changed so many times up to June that people would have been confused about what the numbers should be
.Let us be honest…that is bollox. By no stretch of the imagination could hundreds of people attending a funeral have been regarded as within the law or the spirit of the law.
2…the organisers had been in prior contact with the Police Service of Norn Iron and had maybe got the impression that the funeral was “approved”. And hence, the chances of conviction would have been negligible.
Well “chances of conviction” is the great “get out of jail card” (literally) that the CPS always uses. “”Guilty as hell but we can do nothing about it” is maybe a less well known legal term but we get the drift.
About two thirds of people who read this Blog live outside Norn Iron and might want to ask who was Bobby Storey. My own answer is the mantra that has sustained me for fifty odd years “Whatever you say, say nothin'”.
Or I can direct you to a blog post about an Easter Rising commemoration event that I posted about on 3rd February 2015, at which Mr Storey was a keynote speaker.
There is a curious protocol about uber republicans. They tend to self identify as “ex-prisoners”. It is a curious code that says something but implies something else.
Bobby Storey was an ex-prisoner. He was an ex-prisoner on several occasions. He liked being an ex-prisoner so much that he actually escaped from prison.
Understandably he is a folk hero in uber-republican circles.
The people who attended Bobby Storey’s funeral are uber republicans and would say that they are “ex prisoners”. Some might be more fulsome and say “ex political prisoners”.
To people who support uber republicans this is all we need to know. To people who are curious, a follow up question is legitimate. I know ex-prisoners who were totally innocent (we had a very flawed judicial system). I know others who were internees who were never convicted of any crime.
But let us be honest, some were atcually convicted of serious crimes. Of course many will say that these were political crimes which were committed during the Conflict…it was, they would say, a War. And they were Prisoners of War.
The Good Friday Agreement had a proviso that such prisoners got out of prison. Most of us accepted this when we got to vote for the Agreement in 1998.
Most believe it was the right thing to do.
Storey’s death and funeral could not be expected to pass without a show of respect or a show of strength from his old friends and comrades.
We all get that. It would always have been a show of respect and a show of strength.
But in June last year, we were in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Restrictions .legally enforceable were placed on numbers and behaviour at funerals. These were agreed by the Stormont Executive and therefore agreed by uber-Republicans, Michelle O’Neill (joint First Minister), Conor Murphy (Minister for Finance) and Deirdre Hargey (Minister for Communities)…all members of Sinn Féin.
So the people breaking the law at the funeral had actually agreed to the very laws they had imposed. Of course the Storey funeral would in normal circumstances been regarded as an insult by unionists. In the year of Covid19, Sinn Féin managed to turn it into a slap in the face for everyone in Norn Iron.
And Sinn Féin got away with it…because they CAN. Adverse publicity (including shameful pandering by Belfast City Council at Storey’s cremation) would last a few days, weeks, months but be a memory in May 2022, when the next Assembly Elections are held.
Uber Republicans are really a coalition of (usually younger) Sinn Féin members who have grown into adulthood after the Troubles ended. They are often referred to as “clean skins”. The other part of the coalition is (usually older) men and women who are ex-prisoners with a whiff of cordite.
Importantly for Sinn Féin’s coalition, the “clean skins” with their degrees in Politics have to pay a certain amount of homage to the “cordite faction”, educated at the University of Long Kesh.
On a personal level, I am offended by the arrogance of it all. In May last year, I lost a cousin in North Antrim and I could not attend her funeral. Just two days later, a close family friend died locally. She had fought a brave battle against Cancer. Only fifteen people were allowed inside the Church. My immediate family followed the funeral service in our cars in the car park.
And in January this year, I lost a cousin (81) to Covid. And my family and I stood on the roadside as the hearse began its 22 mile journey to a funeral service in a small village.
So am I angry? Of course I am.
What will I do about it? Nothing. Next year I will give SDLP my first preference vote and give Sinn Féin my second preference. Just like I intended to do before Covid19.
Like I said Sinn Féin got away with it……because they CAN.
Political consequences? Well SDLP are leading a vote of censure. It is of course “playing politics” but sometimes “playing politics” is the right thing to do. The alternative would be just going along with the arrogance.
Reasonable people might think that Arlene Foster might call on Michelle O’Neill to resign or whatever. But that is pointless as Sinn Féin could simply withdraw from the Executive and it would collapse. If O’Neill resigns…..Foster would be sacking herself.
But Arlene Foster has called on the Chief Constable to resign. Apparently…yet again, PSNI have “lost the confidence of the unionist community”. DUP are simply going thru the motions.
Nothing will happen. The CPS is “reviewing” its decision but it is all nonsense.