The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion calling on Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill to apologise for attending the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey last week.

It also calls for an apology from the Finance Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, who also attended.

The motion was signed by the other four parties that make up the Stormont Executive, the DUP, SDLP, Alliance and Ulster Unionists.

Michelle O’Neill responded by saying she would always apologise "for any unintended hurt that was caused" but did not apologise for attending the funeral.

Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, who has accused her critics of political point-scoring, again insisted that she acted responsibly.

The Deputy First Minister was the target of sustained criticism throughout the debate on the motion.

First minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster did not take part in the debate.

Proposing the motion, the DUP’s Christopher Stalford said he was "outraged and disgusted" by Ms O’Neill’s persistent denials that she had not breached Covid-19 guidelines.


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The South Belfast MLA said it "sticks in peoples' craw" that the rules around public gatherings did not appear to apply when senior members of Sinn Féin were being buried.

"Ad nauseum has been the repetition of her assertion that she abided by the guidelines that she wrote and imposed upon every other citizen of this country," he said.

"That pretence cannot be sustained unless we close off all reason and judgement."

The SDLP’s Daniel McCrossan accused Michelle O’Neill and Conor Murphy of a breach of trust and said they should admit that "a wrong has been made" and apologise.

The West Tyrone MLA said there could not one rule for those who govern, and one rule for others.

"I’m not sure that the Deputy First Minister and her party fully understand the depth of damage that has been caused to the credibility of these institutions," he said.

Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken said the two ministers "should have done the decent thing and resigned".

The South Antrim MLA accused them of "insulting arrogance" and said they had failed to uphold their own rules and guidance.

"Unforgivably you have put down your own narrow party interests above those of your constituents," he added.

Kelly Armstrong of the Alliance Party said she was concerned that the public would no longer listen to public health guidance given by the Stormont Executive.

"We have asked Sinn Féin to reflect on the damage done and in the best interests of all citizens to recognise and own the issue they created by apologising," she added.

The Non-Statutory Motion was passed without a vote needing to take place.

It does not have any legal standing and cannot compel the Sinn Féin ministers to make a public apology.

The motion acknowledged "the immense sacrifices that people, families and communities have made during the Covid-19 emergency and pays tribute to those who selflessly prioritised the need to keep each other safe above their own personal needs, particularly during times of trauma, loss and grief".

It called on the Deputy First Minister and the Minister for Finance "to apologise for their actions, which have caused immense hurt".

Michelle O'Neill has rejected allegations that she breached public health social distancing guidelines when she attended the funeral.

First Minister Arlene Foster and the other parties in the Executive last week called on her to step aside while an investigation into those allegations takes place.

The motion to be discussed today did not call on Ms O’Neill to step aside or resign.

In her response, the Deputy First Minister said that "at no stage did I seek to give offence to anyone, including this chamber, nor would I ever seek to do so".