Three Sinn Fein politicians from Fermanagh and South Tyrone who attended the funeral of Bobby Storey in Belfast last week have said they attended his funeral “in line with public health guidelines”.

Michelle Gildernew, MP and Sean Lynch and Jemma Dolan MLAs for the constituency were at the funeral for the veteran Republican in West Belfast, which has led to a major political fallout in the Assembly.

First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to attend joint Covid-19 briefings with Michelle O’Neill while Stormont debated a motion on Tuesday evening calling for Mrs. O’Neill to apologise for undermining the Covid-19 regulations.

In a joint statement released by the three local Sinn Fein politicians, they said: “We understand the last number of months have been very difficult and painful for everyone, particularly those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.

“It has created heartache for families who have been unable to hold a traditional wake or funeral in the way which would be befitting to the memory of the loved one who passed.

“No family’s grief is more important than any other.

“We understand the hurt and pain of so many families who have been bereaved and my thoughts are with each and every one of them.

“We too were heartbroken at the loss of our friend and colleague, Bobby Storey, following his untimely death.

“We attended his funeral in line with the public health guidelines.”

The statement said the funeral was organised in accordance with the wishes of his family and the organisers took every care possible to ensure it adhered to the guidelines on social distancing and public health. “Covid-19 is still with us and the public wants to see the Executive working together to meet the challenges presented to us by the health crisis and steering our way to economic recovery. We have important work to do and Sinn Féin remains fully committed to power sharing and to the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The fallout from the attendance of Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill along with Finance Minister Conor Murphy and other MLAs at the funeral rumbled on at Stormont on Tuesday evening when a motion was passed calling on an apology from the Deputy First Minister.

MLAs from other parties accused Mrs. O’Neill of undermining the Covid-19 regulations that the Executive have introduced to fight the virus.

UUP leader, Steve Aiken called for her resignation while the DUP’s Christopher Stalford described the behaviour of Sinn Féin as something seen in the Trump administration.

Deputy First Minister O’Neill said she “acted in accordance” with the responsibilities of a public office holder and Deputy First Minister.

“I am satisfied that I acted responsibly in the church, as part of a limited group of no more than 30 people as part of the cortège and at the ceremony in Milltown, where I paid my respects. At no stage did I seek to give offence to anyone, including the Chamber, nor would I ever seek to do so.”