Covid-19: Michelle ONeill attacks DUP over response to pandemic

Covid-19: Michelle ONeill attacks DUP over response to pandemic

NI’s deputy first minister has attacked the DUP over its part in the executive’s response to the pandemic.

Michelle O’Neill insisted she has never deviated from the official advice.

On Thursday, police completed an investigation into alleged breaches of regulations at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey, which Ms O’Neill attended.

First Minister Arlene Foster responded by saying Sinn Féin had decided “they were above the laws”.

Ms O’Neill told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme the DUP had worked against public health experts and their executive colleagues.

“The DUP have worked against the entire public health team, they have worked against the entire executive,” she said.

“There’s a collective will with all the other parties in the executive to do more at different times during throughout pandemic. I think it’s important that we distinguish the approach to the pandemic.”

However, speaking after a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on Friday, First Minister Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, said: “At the end of June, one party, Sinn Féin, had decided whilst they made the laws, they were also above the laws”.

Mrs Foster said the new lockdown measures due to begin in Northern Ireland on 26 December are the result of a failure of society.

She appealed to the people of Northern Ireland to set their own standards.

Almost 2,000 people attended the funeral of Mr Storey in June at a time when numbers at gatherings were severely restricted.

Among them were Ms O’Neill, who is the deputy leader of Sinn Féin and her party leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Ms O’Neill later said Stormont’s public health messaging had been “undermined” by the controversy.

Mrs Foster said prior to June compliance with Covid-19 regulations had been “very good”, with Northern Ireland being “the envy of our colleagues in the UK”.

But she said that following on from June there had been a “breakdown in compliance” with the Covid-19 regulations across Northern Ireland.

“I very, very much regret that to be the case and I am again appealing to everyone across NI to set your own standards because if you want to protect your friends and your family and yourself then we need to get through this,” she said.

Ms O’Neill told the same news conference: “I never deviated from the advice of the chief medical officer when the health team brought forward proposals for how we respond to Covid”.

The deputy first minister said you can “reflect all day about what has gone before” adding, “we have to concentrate on where we are now”.

The executive agreed on Thursday that Northern Ireland would enter a six-week lockdown from 26 December.

“The executive as a whole agrees that we need to intervene,” said Ms O’Neill.

“We understand that it is very challenging and very difficult for people but it is necessary,” she added.

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