Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill is facing calls to stand aside from her role as Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland amid claims that she broke social distancing regulations to attend the funeral of a former IRA member. 

O'Neill, who also serves as Sinn Féin's Vice President, faced criticism after she attended the funeral of veteran IRA member Bobby Storey in Belfast on Tuesday, June 30. 

Around 1,800 people lined the streets of Belfast on Tuesday to pay their respects at a time when Northern Ireland's COVID-19 restrictions allow up to 30 people to attend funerals. 

Now, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has called for O'Neill to stand aside as Deputy First Minister while police in the region investigate alleged social distancing breaches at the funeral.

Foster wrote to O'Neill to ask her to step down while the investigation is carried out, according to reports. 

RTÉ News reports that O'Neill will not be standing down or stepping aside from her role as Deputy First Minister during the investigations. 

Four of the five parties represented in the Stormont Executive have now called for O'Neill to step aside, including the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance. Sinn Féin is the remaining party in the Stormont Executive. 

O'Neill has defended her attendance at Tuesday's funeral, claiming that she believed her actions were within the public health guidelines. 

But her critics say that she has breached the rules that she helped create and that she has sent out a "bad, bad message." 

Read more: Bobby Storey, alleged IRA head of intelligence, dies aged 64

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said that O'Neill should "demonstrate respect and integrity" and stand aside during the investigations, claiming that her actions had damaged the message communicated by the Northern Irish Government during the pandemic. 

"We're in the middle of a pandemic... the Executive stepped up to the mark, what happened this week damaged and undermined what the Executive has been doing," Donaldson said. 

However, Donaldson said that he would not support collapsing the Executive and calling for another election in the middle of a global health crisis and said that Sinn Féin must take responsibility and apologize. 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told RTÉ that there was a huge amount of public anger being directed towards Sinn Féin at present over the issue. 

"She [Michelle O'Neill] communicated the public health message, rightly so, and the public went with it.

"I can tell you the number of people who buried people during the pandemic who were not able to do the normal thing, bury your loved one with your community around you, and they are absolutely furious," he said. 

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald also attended Storey's funeral, who died two weeks ago at the age of 64. 

Read more: Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill defends attendance at west Belfast funeral

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