Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll McNeill has accused the Sinn Féin leadership of making deliberate and very different choices about how the rules are applied with regard to social distancing at the funeral of Bobby Storey.
Speaking onMs Carroll McNeill said: “To knowingly and willingly participate in an event that was always going to have the potential to be very large and to not remove yourself from that, it just smacks of making deliberate and very different choices about how the rules are applied.”
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy responded that using a funeral to make a political point was ‘a new low.’
“There's an attempt by people like Jennifer to dehumanise Republicans and Sinn Féin members as if we haven't been through the exact same stresses and anxieties as every other member of the community.
In a despicable manner Fine Gael are using the funeral of a very well-liked and much-loved man for political ends. I think that's really disappointing and people will see through it.
Ms Carroll McNeill said she had a sense in recent days that Sinn Féin were taking a different approach about regulations and rules.
The party leadership had gone to Belfast to participate in a funeral that always had the potential to be a very large funeral.
“That follows up Saturday at the Convention Centre where Michelle O'Neill travelled down for the Taoiseach's nomination which seemed to be completely unnecessary when you think about Micheál Martin not even bringing his own family, his own wife and children to come and celebrate with him on the day that he comes Taoiseach.
“We are moving to a stage with the Covid where everyone's trying their best to try and abide by the regulations to prevent a second wave, we've all tried our best over the last period.”
Mr Carthy said that the organisers of the funeral did everything they could to try and ensure that all the regulations and guidelines were adhered to.
“There was a requiem mass at which 30 people were in attendance and that was where Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O'Neill and Pearse Doherty were part of that small group, the organisers had arranged that only that 30 would follow the hearse. They had made arrangements that if people wanted to attend at some point along the line, they would be in place.”
But the number of people that showed up had surprised the organisers who had broadcast the funeral online to try and minimise the number of people in attendance.
“The truth of the matter is that Bobby Storey was a hugely respected person by an awful lot of people. And a large number of them wanted to pay their respects.
“The restrictions have been eased so the reason I decided to attend, I made a personal decision to travel, to be at the graveyard, again unknowing of the huge numbers of people that would make the exact same decision as me. The reason I did was because Bobby Storey was a friend of mine.”
Ms Carroll McNeill denied that she was dehumanising Sinn Féin. She said the issue of funerals was very difficult for everyone.
“But I don't buy this line about Sinn Féin not being able either to organise their supporters or organise themselves and conduct an event that they have been so famous at organising in so many different ways, but that seems to be breaking down.
“If we take what Matt says as correct then they couldn't organise a funeral with their own supporters and organise that their supporters would behave in a particular way in compliance with the regulations.
“They couldn't organise the nomination of a councillor as Cathaoirleach as South Dublin Co Council - they weren't aware that one of their councillors was going to be nominated.”
Meanwhile, Westminster's Northern Ireland Secretary also questioned the actions of those attending the funeral.
Brandon Lewis said he understood that some people were “frustrated and angry” at what happened.
“I was a bit surprised… when you are saying to people you’ve got to follow those guidelines,” he said.
“People have given so many sacrifices over the last couple of months, particularly in Northern Ireland where we have seen people really strongly following the guidelines, we’ve seen lower levels of things because people are following those guidelines so well."