IT was Harold Wilson, the late British Labour Party prime minister, who declared that a week is a long time in politics. Make that three days.
That is the length of time it has taken for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to officially end Civil War politics with Micheál Martin as Taoiseach now leading a coalition government.
During that same timeframe, as FF and FG were burying the ghosts of past conflict, Sinn Féin was resurrecting them, with its leader, Mary Lou McDonald, and other senior members of the party,
Storey, from west Belfast, was highly influential within the republican movement throughout the Troubles and subsequent peace process.
His family had every right to honour him, as any other would. But these are not normal times and Sinn Féin senior figures in attendance, who now form the opposition party in this country, should not have ignored the Covid-19 restrictions of the present, forced upon so many who have not been able to grieve the loss of loved ones.
Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald, and Michelle O’Neill all walked beside one another along the Falls Road — a journey that took the best part of an hour, with mourners lining the route the whole way. Inside the church, the rules were obeyed, according to those in attendance.
A day before the funeral, Ms O’Neill and Northern Ireland first minister, Arlene Foster, both appealed to people to observe the coronavirus rules. Stormont health minister, Robin Swann, said the scenes in Andersonstown, where roadsides were packed with people as the cortege carrying Mr Storey passed by, were a clear breach of Covid-19 restrictions.
Ms McDonald knows more than most why Covid-19 restrictions are so important, having been, as she described, “floored” with the illness following a positive diagnosis at the end of March. She later said of the symptoms: “Every part of me hurt. It hurt to open my eyes.”
It was incumbent on her, then, to show leadership and ensure others were prevented from suffering the same symptoms, or worse. Ms O’Neill faced strong criticism from unionists in Northern Ireland, given her role as the joint head of a Stormont executive that has been instructing people to limit the size of funerals during the lockdown.
At the graveside, Michelle O’Neill read a poem by Robert Frost, called The Road Not Taken, as about 3,000 people watched online via the Sinn Féin Facebook page.
The poem ends by saying: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”
Ms O’Neill ended her oration by saying: “Thank you, Bobby, for taking the road less travelled. We will continue on your path.”
In fact, Bobby Storey took both roads during his lifetime: First, the thorny trek of violent resistance, then, later, the path of peace and reconciliation.