Pictures have emerged across social media of the funeral yesterday in Londonderry of former republican prisoner Eamonn McCourt, which appears to show breaches of COVID-19 regulations.
The death of the 62-year-old is believed to have been as a result of COVID on January 23, with his funeral taking place on Monday morning from the Creggan area of the city.
Currently, several restrictions are in place for funerals including a limit on the number of individuals allowed to attend – 25 under current regulations – a number which seems to have been exceeded according to the pictures of the funeral cortege which emerged yesterday.
There was also a notice with the funeral details posted, also a breach under the regulations.
“Remains will be leaving the family home around 9:15am, everyone is entitled to attend… the cemetery will be open to all for his final goodbye. Rest easy da will see it through up the ra!”
Alongside these pictures was a message on social media which read: “Although the hardest day of my life it was also the most humbling, my family were amazing and really honoured my da, the guard of honor lead with family… was a privilege to our family and to my daddy no doubt! Thank everyone of you’s.
“To my das second family, his comrades the republican movement we can’t thank you enough for giving him the respect and the best republican funeral we could give in these awful times.”
But in a statement by a TUV spokesperson Jordan Armstrong, he has described the funeral as “Another Republican insult to grieving law-abiding families” saying:
“Once again the streets of Northern Ireland have been subjected to a Republican show of strength which would be offensive at any time. However, when set in the context of the pandemic, with funerals limited by law to just 25 people, such a display is doubly insulting.
“In light of the posts on social media which have been uncovered by the press in just a few hours after the funeral the PSNI have serious questions to answer about their policing McCourt was a well known Republican convict and the Provo refusal to abandon their grotesque practice of turning funerals into rallies is hardly news to anyone.
“So where were the police? Those who in recent days and months have forgone a normal funeral in order to keep within the law have a right to expect answers.
“It is imperative that the PSNI do everything in their power to dispel the widespread belief that Republicans can do what they like in Northern Ireland.
“There are also big questions for Sinn Fein. Will they condemn what happened today in Londonderry? Can we be sure that elected officials from that party did not attend?
“Once again on one and the same day Stormont debates Covid restrictions which apply to the rest of us while Republicans break Covid restrictions in broad daylight. This is not a thing done in a corner. It is imperative that the PSNI act and act swiftly if they are to salvage any of their tarnished reputation.”
Police have now begun an investigation into the funeral and potential breaches of restrictions following several complaints from political representatives and the PSNI’s interactions previously with the McCourt family at the weekend.
In a statement from the PSNI Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones yesterday, he wrote: “Over the weekend, police became aware of a funeral, planned for Monday 25 January, which had the potential to draw a significant number of people.
“As a result, police engaged with representatives of the family of the deceased, the local church and local political representatives.
“Across these engagements, police emphasised the need for adherence to the current health protection regulations. As a result, police were given a number of assurances as to the conduct of the funeral, and that people would seek to pay their respects to the deceased from outside their homes rather than gather at the funeral.
“Regrettably at the funeral on Monday morning, a significant number of people gathered as part of the cortège, in a manner likely to be in breach of the health protection regulations. As a result, police have commenced an investigation into the matter, and where individuals are identified as potentially being in breach of the regulations, they will be reported to the Public Prosecution Service with a view to prosecution.”