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Priest castigates politicians at Lyra McKee funeral

23 April 2019

Funeral of murdered journalist takes place at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast


The Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, the Very Revd Stephen Forde (front, right), at the funeral of Lyra McKee

The Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, the Very Revd Stephen Forde (front, right), at the funeral of Lyra McKee

IRISH bishops have joined political and civic leaders in denouncing the murder of the journalist Lyra McKee in the Creggan, a large housing estate in Derry, on the night of Maundy Thursday.

Ms McKee, who was 29, was killed when terrorists of a splinter group styling itself the “New IRA” opened fire in a street populated by police and civilians.

Peace vigils in memory of the late Ms McKee were held in towns and cities in Ireland at the weekend. In London, a vigil was held at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, in conjunction with the National Union of Jounalists, timed to coincide with her funeral.

The funeral service, on Wednesday, in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, was conducted by the Dean, the Very Revd Stephen Forde, and the address was given by Fr Martin Magill, the Roman Catholic parish priest of St John’s, in the Falls area of Belfast. Those in attend­ance included the Prime Minister, Theresa May, the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn; and, from the Republic, President Michael D. Higgins, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney. also attended.

Ms McKee’s family and friends had urged mourners to wear Harry Potter- and Marvel-themed T-shirts at the service as a reflection of her love of these films.

Praising the large number of people who had crossed community lines to provide information to the Police Service in Northern Ireland and to condemn paramilitary murder, Fr Magill asked, to a standing ovation: “Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point? As Christians recalled the death of Jesus on the cross, we remembered that his death was not in vain but was for us the doorway to eternal life.

“I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.”

One of Ms McKee’s friends was reported as saying: “We have had enough. There is a younger generation coming up in the town and they don’t need guns put in their hands. They need jobs, they need a better health service and education. They need a life, not a gun put in their hands.

“To those who had any part in her murder, I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee journalist and writer as a powerful example of ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends. . . To those still intent on violence, I ask you to listen to the majority of the people on your beloved island of Ireland who are calling on you to stop.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, said on Sunday: “I have been praying for the loved ones and colleagues of the talented young journalist, Lyra McKee, whose life was so cruelly and pointlessly ended by violence in my home city of Derry. May Lyra rest in peace. . . We are called to be reconcilers and peacemakers, willing to help heal the wounds of the past in our families, society, and Church.”

Speaking at a rally of solidarity in Creggan on Good Friday, the Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, spoke of his own personal outrage and that of the entire community, but said that such an event had not been entirely unforeseeable.

Church TimesThe Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, addresses a rally in the Creggan Estate in Derry, on Good Friday

“Only last January, after the bomb attack on the city’s courthouse, I said that the perpetrators had shown a callous disregard for people’s lives. On that occasion a group of young people were lucky to escape unscathed. Sadly, the outcome that I feared then — if such reckless attacks were to continue — was realised last night, and Lyra McKee, a talented young journalist, paid the ultimate price,” he said.

“The people responsible for her murder — the individual who pulled the trigger and the leaders who sanctioned the attack — have this young woman’s blood on their hands. They claim to be liberators of the community. In reality, they are its oppressors.”

Ms McKee’s family described her as a kind and gentle person whose response to hatred and violence was love and generosity of spirit.

Political and community leaders have greeted with contempt a statement from the organisation responsible for her death that it will in future take more care in protecting civilians when engaging with “the enemy”. World leaders, including Mrs May and the former US President Bill Clinton, expressed their shock and sorrow.

The “New IRA”, a small group of dissidents who refused to accept the Belfast Agreement, were told by Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, to “pack up”. “It is past time for these groups that masquerade as Republicans to pack up, to cease their activities and let the people get on with building the Ireland we all want,” she said. The leader of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Michelle O’ Neill, described Ms McKee’s murderers as having “no politics, no strategy, and no popular support among the vast number of ordinary people from this city or anywhere else in this country”.

The depth of feelings of revulsion were expressed in Derry in the daubing of Republican murals including the free-standing gable wall announcing “You are now entering Free Derry”, where protesters painted underneath “#not in my name” — an unprecedented action in an area where the Bloody Sunday killings remain such a contentious issue.

Many people from the immediate locality also placed blood-red handprints on the office frontage of the non-registered political party Saoradh (”Liberation”), which is suspected to be fronting the terrorists.

The clear intent of the “New IRA”, despite its small numbers, is to carry on a campaign of terror, and in many political circles the absence of an administration at Stormont in many political circles has been seen as a vacuum in which such dissident activity can flourish.

Listen to Gregg Ryan talk about this story on the Church Times Podcast:

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