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Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that political leaders must publicly demonstrate that they are willing to make the immense sacrifices that they have asked everyone else to make throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Eastwood said that public concerns about the behaviour of Executive Ministers at a funeral this week are justified and that the failure to show contrition is unacceptable.

The SDLP Leader has reluctantly called on joint Head of Government Michelle O’Neill to temporarily stand aside pending an investigation into alleged breaches of guidelines this week.

Colum Eastwood MP said:

“Over the course of the last number of months, political leaders have asked people to make immense sacrifices to protect their friends, family and others across our communities. That was the right thing to do, we need to protect people from this virus. It is a matter of profound regret that the Joint First Minister, and other colleagues, were unable to share in that sacrifice.

“There are countless families who have had to bury children and parents and grandparents throughout this crisis. The SDLP family was prevented from sharing our grief following the death of John Dallat, we were prevented from being with his family and honouring his memory. Like so many others, we made the difficult decision that our pain has to come second to protecting the public. It is incredibly hurtful that the Sinn Féin leadership decided that their movement, their pain, their people are more important than anyone else.

“The SDLP did not rush to judgment on this. We waited to hear from Michelle O’Neill at her scrutiny committee yesterday. We considered her response and have, unfortunately, been disappointed with the absence of contrition and the failure to acknowledge that attending this mass gathering was a mistake that put people at risk.

“It is with reluctance that we have come to the conclusion that without such a statement, the joint First Minister has erased her authority on public health messaging and should stand aside pending an investigation into alleged breaches of the guidelines. That is the standard we asked for Arlene Foster, it is also the standard that Sinn Féin asked of the First Minister. In the interests of the authority of this Executive, they should take action now.

MIL OSI United Kingdom