DEPUTY First Minister Michelle O'Neill has apologised for hurt caused to grieving families, who conformed to coronavirus guidelines for death rites, by her attendance at the funeral earlier this week of veteran republican Bobby Storey.
The apology comes as it was confirmed that Bobby Storey's remains were moved to Roselawn for cremation after Tuesday's funeral ceremony in Milltown Cemetery.
Sinn Féin's leader in the North was accused of breaching social distancing regulations at the funeral on Tuesday.
Four executive parties, including the DUP have called for her to step aside pending a PSNI investigation.
In a statement released on Friday morning, Michelle O'Neill apologised but also reiterated that she believes she stuck to the Covid-19 lockdown guidelines.
“There has been considerable controversy over my attendance at Bobby Storey’s funeral," she said.
“He was my friend.
"At the foremost of my mind are all the families who are grieving.
“I have listened carefully to the voices of those who have lost loved ones.
“No family’s grief is more important than another’s.
“I am particularly concerned that grieving families, who have lost a loved one during the pandemic had their heartache compounded by the necessary restrictions which were in place at that time.
“Not being able to have their family and friends’ support to help them through was hugely difficult.
“I am also concerned that those grieving families are experiencing more hurt over recent days. I am sorry for that.
“Bobby’s family also must have space to grieve.
“If the regulations had prevented me from attending his funeral I would have obeyed those regulations.
“At the funeral and mass I kept to the regulations as I have advised others to do.
“The PSNI will look into all of this.
“It is unfortunate that this matter has divided the Executive.
“We have important work to do and I firmly believe that all the parties of the Executive are committed to this and to powersharing.
“We have made good progress in this despite all the difficulties. My commitment is to continue this work.
“Covid 19 is still with us and I will continue to lead us through this and in to recovery.”