Two prominent Tyrone republicans fined for attending the funeral of a friend during the Covid-19 lockdown are to appeal the decision.
Brian Arthurs and Frankie Quinn were prosecuted for contravening ‘health protection’ regulations after attending the funeral of former Sinn Féin councillor Francie McNally in April 2020.
Mr McNally’s funeral procession was headed by a lone piper while a group of former republican prisoners, wearing white shirts and black ties formed a guard of honour as his remains were removed from his home at Ballinderry, which straddles the Tyrone-Derry border.
A cortege, which included a horse and carriage, later made its way to St Patrick’s Church for burial.
The prosecutions fit into long-standing policy by the PSNI to shut down and oppress funerals of so-called ‘dissident’ (non-Sinn Féin) republicans.
The contrast between the treatment of the two men and Sinn Féin members over their attendance at the funeral of senior party member Bobby Storey in June 2020 has led to accusations of political policing.
Mr Quinn hit out at the unequal treatment.
“Constitutional nationalism talks about change in the system, there’s equality and things have changed,” he said. “We beg to differ.”
Mr Arthurs attacked the “hypocrisy” of the fact that the majority of people referred to prosecutors have not faced court action.
“We as republicans did not expect justice in a British court – unless you are part of the system,” he said.
His lawyer Peter Corrigan, of Phoenix Law, last night said the “judgment in many ways epitomises the concerns raised on the compatibility of this legislation with the human rights act”.
“It appears to be one rule for those in 10 Downing Street, and another for those in Ballinderry,” he said.
“We now intend to appeal the instant decision to seek clarity in respect of the contentious legal landscape.”