Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty has apologised to Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty over an allegation he encouraged people to “break the law” by attending the funeral of former IRA man Bobby Storey in Belfast.
Ms Doherty, Fine Gael’s leader in the Seanad said on Tuesday that she was retracting the allegations made in a tweet that she posted on February 1st this year.
In a Twitter post on Tuesday, she wrote: “On the 1st of February I published a tweet concerning Pearse Doherty TD in which I made an allegation against him that he had encouraged others to break the law by attending the funeral of the late Bobby Storey.
“I retract the tweet unreservedly and the allegation it made about Mr Doherty. I genuinely regret the upset I have caused him.”
Ms Doherty was one of a number of Fine Gael TDs and Senators who posted comments on social media following a heated exchange between Mr Doherty and Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on February 1st.
It followed the publication of the report by secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Joe Hackett, into a breach of Covid-19 social distancing rules in its Iveagh House headquarters in June 2020 on the night that Ireland won election to the United Nations Security Council. A photograph posted on social media showed Mr Hackett’s predecessor Niall Burgess and 20 others, most holding glasses, celebrating the election victory.
Mr Doherty roundly criticised the report in the Dáil as inadequate and called for further action. He was then challenged by Mr Martin who brought up the large number of Sinn Féin representatives from the Republic who attended the funeral in Belfast that summer at the height of Covid restrictions.
“You [Mr Doherty] are the deputy leader of a party that invited almost 2,000 members and supporters onto the streets of Belfast and then onto a political rally essentially, and then into a cemetery [Milltown Cemetery in Belfast] at a time the ordinary men and women that you speak about were limited to 30 people; when the ordinary men and women you’re talking about were distraught because they couldn’t attend the funeral of their loved ones.
“To the best of my knowledge your organisation has never admitted you were wrong in what you did but you lecture everybody else.
“There’s one law for Sinn Féin, there’s a different law for everybody else when it comes to this,” he said.
In some testy exchanges, Mr Doherty accused Mr Martin of insensitivity, saying the Taoiseach was trying to equate “a champagne party with a funeral of a friend”.
When contacted the Fine Gael senator said she would not be making any further comment. Mr Doherty did not respond to queries.