Lyra McKee’s coffin is carried out of St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. RollingNews.ie photo
By Irish Echo Staff
The funeral of slain journalist Lyra McKee took place in Belfast today with an ecumenical service at St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.
The funeral was attended by leaders of all Northern Ireland’s main political parties as well as President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
In advance of the funeral, the McKee family issued a statement which read in part. “On Thursday 18th of April our beautiful Lyra was taken from us. A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, a partner, a niece, a cousin, and above all, a best friend and confidante to so many of us.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
“A friend to all, a gentle innocent soul who wouldn’t wish ill on anyone. Such a warm and innocent heart, she was the greatest listener, someone who had time for everyone.
“She was a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth. Lyra spoke to and made friends with anybody and everybody, no matter what their background, those of all political views and those with none. This openness, and her desire to bring people together, made her totally apolitical.
“We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love we have witnessed this past few days. It has been of immense solace that Lyra meant so much to so many.
“We ask everyone who knew Lyra to continue her message of positivity and hope by respecting her memory with dignity and respect.
“We as a family know that the whole community has been touched by the events of Thursday night and that many are rightly angry. However, we would ask that Lyra’s life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us as all we face this tragedy together. Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness.”
A release, via Twitter, from the U.S. Consulate in Belfast stated: “Today, we join with Lyra McKee’s partner, family and friends, and the people of NI to celebrate her life. Lyra participated in a 2017 exchange program with the Consulate. We were enriched by her talent, kindness and persistence, and the people of the U.S. mourn her loss with you.”
The murder of the 29-year-old by a member of the “New IRA” in Derry during a riot prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum and also renewed calls for North politicians to resume talks aimed at restoring a functioning power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
In the immediate aftermath of McKee’s death – she was struck in the head by a single bullet – a joint statement from North party leaders said: “We want to express our condemnation in the strongest terms possible at the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.
“The murder of Lyra McKee is first and foremost a devastating loss for her grieving partner, family and friends, and our thoughts are with them at this awful time.
“Lyra’s murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.
“It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.
“We are united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime. They have no support in the community, must be brought to justice and should disband immediately.
“We reiterate our support for the PSNI, who while carrying out their duties were also the target of last night’s attack. We call on anyone with any information to bring that forward to the police and assist their inquiries. This is a time for calm heads.”
The statement was signed by Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, Arlene Foster of the DUP, Robin Swann of the UUP, Colum Eastwood of the SDLP, Naomi Long of Alliance, and Clare Bailey of the Green Party.
Separately, Sinn Féin’s North leader Michelle O’Neill said in part: “I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.
“My first thoughts and that of my party are with the family of the woman killed. This is a senseless loss of life.
“The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.
“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman. We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.
“We remain united in our determination to building a better and peaceful future for all.
“Those responsible should listen to the people, they should disband immediately and end their pointless actions against the community which tonight has tragically claimed the life of a young woman.
Speaking for the Irish government Tánaiste Simon Coveney said: “The news from Derry is shocking and tragic. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lyra McKee today. I call on anyone with information to come forward to the PSNI.
“There is no justification for this tragic loss of life and I call on those intent on violence and disturbances to stop.
“As we mark the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, we are reminded that the vast majority of people of this island voted overwhelmingly for peace and reconciliation and an end to violence. There can be no going back to those awful days.”
Reaction in the U.S. was led by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The AOH in a statement said: “The Ancient Order of Hibernians condemn the senseless murder of Journalist Lyra McKee, shot in performance of her journalistic duty while a covering a riot in Derry, Northern Ireland.
“There can be no excuse or palliation for such a wanton act; the specious absurdity of claims that it was ‘an accident’ only give further proof to the mindlessness of those responsible. The loss at age 29 of a life with such bright potential is a tragedy which extends beyond the walls of Derry to the entire world.
“The appalling death of Lyra McKee is sad testimony to the current state of Northern Ireland and how far we remain from the vision of peace articulated on a Good Friday 21 years ago.
“While there is only one person accountable for the murder of Lyra McKee, those who have been inattentive to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement are responsible for fostering a vacuum of leadership and providing an environment in which mindless zealotry thrives.
“Once again, we see the disastrous consequences of Britain’s policy of suzerainty without responsibility in Northern Ireland. That the fate of the community of Northern Ireland is currently entrusted to a Northern Ireland Secretary whose only talent seems to be to display her ignorance of Northern Ireland is irresponsibility to the point of callousness.
“For Brexiteers to persist the myth that the perils associated with the re-imposition of a border in Ireland is a ‘concocted issue’ is the epitome of Saul Bellow’s observations that ‘A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.’
“The United States is also negligent at this inflection point of history for abdicating its leadership role in the cause of peace in Northern Ireland. Despite promises by the administration, the role of Special Envoy to Northern Ireland remains unfilled. The death of Lyra McKee is a reminder that one of the great triumphs of diplomacy over violence is in danger of being lost due to apathy and inattention.
“At this time of Easter, we as Catholics are reminded that out of tragedy can spring hope. Let us pray that the tragic death of Lyra McKee shall serve as a call for a rededicated commitment to the peace process in Northern Ireland.”