Actor Rory Kinnear reveals he buried his sister on day of Downing Street party

by 24britishtvJan. 13, 2022, 4 p.m. 16
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Bond actor Rory Kinnear says he is "haunted by the tinkling of glasses" after revealing his sister's funeral was held on the same day as the Downing Street lockdown party on May 20, 2020.

Boris Johnson apologised on Wednesday for attending a "bring your own booze" party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when the rest of the country was in lockdown. Read his full statement here.

The PM insisted he thought the party was work-related, but said he recognised "with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside".

The apology has done little for the families like Rory's, whose 48-year-old sister Karina died after contracting coronavirus.

Read more: You can find more of our politics stories here.

In a powerful essay for The Guardian, he described how he had not been able to hug his grieving mum and sister as they sat metres apart in the garden after the funeral, and said the new revelations about a garden party on the same day proved "repeated failures of those in power to understand".

The Bond star wrote: "Like those assembled with their bottles in Downing Street, I, too, had broken the government’s existing guidelines, implemented to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, in a familiar garden.

"After my sister Karina’s funeral, I had gone to my mother’s house. It was a baking hot day and, while the circumstances didn’t really allow me to “make the most of the lovely weather”, the sunshine did permit me and my other sister, Kirsty, to sit in our mum’s garden, at the state-appointed distance from each other, and recall the many joys, as well as strains, that Karina’s life had brought.

"There were three of us in the garden, from three separate households, one more than was permitted. It might not have been exactly to the letter of the law, but we reckoned it was the least our grief would permit."

His sister Karina was only 48 when she died from coronavirus in 2020. She suffered a lack of oxygen at birth, causing severe brain damage, had been left paralysed from the waist down after a life-saving operation on her spine, and was in hospital with chest infections regularly throughout her life.

"Now Karina was dead," he said. "And we couldn’t hug each other. It was bleak, yes, but then it was a time of incomparable global uncertainty. An unparalleled, unifying swathe of sadness had devoured us all. Pain like ours was tearing through families the world over. So, in some ways, it felt like we were all in it together."

The 43-year-old, known for his Shakespearean stage roles and as MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner in the 007 film series, said he took comfort on the night of the funeral in the belief that everyone was in it together.

He wrote: "I couldn’t help but feel grateful that my community was taking the deaths of people such as my sister as seriously and profoundly as I was. Their confinement spoke of a silent but wholehearted sympathy for families such as mine. They knew, they felt too, that we were all in it together.

"Well, not all of us, it turns out. Not them.

"Just under two miles separates my corner of London from the garden of Downing Street. I am, today, haunted by the tinkling of those glasses there on that sun-drenched night, the echoing of their thin laughter, the stifled chuckles as they practised their imagined denials and, most perniciously, the leadership that encouraged it to happen.

"Their actions feel like direct assaults in the face of my family’s, and all of our shared national, tragedy. To me, and I’m sure many others, the revelations of the manifest and repeated failures of those in power to understand, empathise or show solidarity with what the people of this country experienced during that time have released from the body politic a stench so toxic that I can’t see how they will be able to put it back in the bottle, no matter how desperately they try. They can’t point the finger anywhere else this time, can they? After all, they brought the bottle themselves."

Mr Johnson told MPs in the Commons that he attended the gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”.

“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said. Read what people in Wales think here.

However, he said “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside, I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that – even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way”.

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