Lyra McKee, a young journalist and activist for LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, was killed Thursday night by a bullet fired in the direction of police officers during a riot in the northwestern city she advised people to call neither Derry nor Londonderry, but “LegenDerry.”
Beautiful photo released by the family of murder victim Lyra McKee. pic.twitter.com/NPmc4sdj2x
— Chris Hagan (@hagan_utv) April 19, 2019
McKee, who was 29, was mourned in a series of vigils on Friday, including one addressed by her partner, Sara Canning, on the street where she was killed in the city’s Creggan neighborhood.
Lyra McKee’s partner, Sara Canning, speaks to the vigil in Derry/Londonderry. pic.twitter.com/oaMOUnDXg4
— Peter A Smith (@PeterAdamSmith) April 19, 2019
“This cannot stand,” Canning said, choking back tears. “Lyra’s death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else’s life, and her legacy will live on in the light that she’s left behind.”
The Irish president, Michael D. Higgins, who signed a condolence book during a visit to Belfast, said that McKee’s life was “taken away by those who represent nobody on this island.”
Powerful words from Irish President Michael D Higgins on the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, says those responsible speak for no one in Ireland pic.twitter.com/Y2Avl5CFos
— Rebecca Black (@RBlackPA) April 19, 2019
In a sign of how grief and outrage at McKee’s death was shared across Northern Ireland’s still-divided communities, the gathering in Creggan was addressed by the leaders of both Sinn Fein, a political party representing the region’s mainly Catholic, Irish nationalist community, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which represents the mainly Protestant community that wants to remain part of the United Kingdom.
— Vincent Kearney (@vincekearney) April 19, 2019
Significant moment as Alene Foster, DUP leader, visits Creggan estate in Londonderry. This is a prominent nationalist & catholic estate where unionist leaders would normally not go. This is where journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead last night. @itvnews pic.twitter.com/QhwrV783gH
— Peter A Smith (@PeterAdamSmith) April 19, 2019
Those political leaders have recently been deadlocked over the collapse of a regional power-sharing executive, which requires the agreement of both communities to function, and the looming threat of Brexit, which could undermine the still-fragile peace in Northern Ireland by closing the currently open border with the Republic of Ireland.
McKee was killed while reporting on rioting that began after the local police service raided the nationalist neighborhood looking for arms stockpiled by dissident militants associated with a group calling itself the New IRA. That fringe group of Irish nationalists dreams of reigniting the armed struggle for a united Ireland, which they trace back to an uprising that began on Easter weekend in 1916. A more recent attempt to unite the island of Ireland into one republic by force was abandoned the Irish Republican Army in 1994, when a ceasefire paved the way for a peace agreement signed on the holiday of Good Friday in 1998.
At the time of her death, McKee was covering a street battle that broke out when the police were stopped in Creggan by young residents hurling, bottles, bricks, fireworks, and petrol bombs.
— Leona O’Neill (@LeonaONeill1) April 18, 2019
A grainy video clip circulating online seemed to capture, from the rioters’ perspective, the moment that two gunshots were fired in the direction of the police, and a group of bystanders and journalists who stood behind their armored vehicles, at what they took to be a safe distance. That recording is punctuated by cheers from very young-sounding voices, celebrating each shot. One of those bullets seems to have killed McKee.
McKee was also mourned online, where her life and work were celebrated by friends and colleagues.
@lyramckee was a beautiful young woman brimful of life and love and creativity. Her loss is just terrible. Let no one dare to say it served the cause of Irish freedom. Lyra was Irish freedom.
— Susan McKay (@SusanMcKay15) April 19, 2019
My memories of Lyra will always be ones of love, profound joy, and mischievous curiosity. She had a love for the worst chicken wings she could find in Belfast, and she was in her prime, in love with her partner, her work, Derry and her life. What an immeasurable loss. #LyraMcKee pic.twitter.com/mgPo2u4HBS
— Ellen Murray ????? (@ellenfromnowon) April 19, 2019
Devastating news that North Belfast’s finest, @LyraMcKee, was shot dead in Derry. What a horrific loss for all those who loved her – and if you met her, you did. A bundle of energy and joy who finally won her book deals and found her great love. Her poor family. Absolute madness pic.twitter.com/tIH4rnidaL
— Ciarán MacAirt (@ciaranmacairt) April 19, 2019
Journalism & society here have suffered a profound loss. Please remember her & her writing & how she campaigned for rights & justice for all. @AaronBastani @AyoCaesar #LyraMcKee pic.twitter.com/HbzCNfJG7c
— P KELLY (@7815PWK) April 19, 2019
I’d never spoken to @LyraMcKee until yesterday.
Out of the blue she sent me this lovely message.
I’ve been getting hassle over my coverage of loyalist paramilitaries for the last month.
Her message really meant a lot to me because I felt very alone.
It means more now. RIP X pic.twitter.com/wbQTlUQvhr
— Patricia Devlin (@trishdevlin) April 19, 2019
Such terrible news about Lyra McKee the journalist killed last night. Lyra had been working with WAVE on a book about young men who had gone missing in the 70’s.She was such a caring woman, full of vitality and dedicated to her work. Such a senseless loss of such a young life.
— WAVE Trauma Centre (@WAVETrauma) April 19, 2019
Many shared McKee’s autobiographical “Letter to My 14-year-old Self” — about growing up gay in Northern Ireland, where homophobic bigotry has long united two socially conservative faith communities otherwise at odds — and her reporting on suicide among members of her generation, who were promised the dividends of peace but still lived in a society traumatized by decades of war.
“Are you gay?”
“Yes mummy I’m so sorry.”
— Megha Mohan (@meghamohan) April 19, 2019
This is part of @LyraMcKee ‘s legacy -a wonderful piece of writing which was turned into a short film that I’ve no doubt gave hope & saved lives. I was very proud to show it to 100 students in @CavanLoreto a few months ago & say I know the author https://t.co/wmOeuV4Fm1 #RIPLyra
— Fidelma Carolan (@fid1dec) April 19, 2019
— Jennifer O’Connell (@jenoconnell) April 19, 2019
The Irish writer and editor Peter Geoghegan urged people to read McKee’s investigation of asylum-seekers forced to endure domestic abuse.
Do read this fantastic, award winning piece that Lyra McKee wrote for @FerretScot. It’s what journalism should be – honest, generous and shining a light into dark places. She will be much missed https://t.co/gfFyqLo19L https://t.co/7MwYsvKIrG
— Peter Geoghegan (@PeterKGeoghegan) April 19, 2019
Others shared a moving TED talk McKee gave in 2017 in Belfast, in which she spoke of the need to reach out and have “difficult conversations” with people whose religion makes it hard for them to accept anyone who is lesbian, bisexual, gay, or transgender.
Lyra McKee gave a TEDx talk on the impact religion has on LGBT people, and healing that trauma. Referring to Derry as “County LegenDerry” she said “I avoid that Derry-Londonderry thing. I hate that.”
We have lost a brilliant queer sister. Rest in Power.https://t.co/0PcfMDlCD1
— Una Mullally (@UnaMullally) April 19, 2019
The killing of McKee also led to a profound backlash against the nationalist militants, including condemnation from Gerry Adams, who is widely suspected to have been an operational leader of the IRA before his embrace of politics.
On this Good Friday morning & on the eve of Easter may Lyra McKee b the last to die as she did. Those involved are not the IRA. The IRA embraced peace. It is gone. No Republican can support the anti peace gangs masquerading as the IRA They should disband.
— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) April 19, 2019
The person who shot Lyra McKee was probably no older than she was, there’s a dangerous radicalisation of young people in Derry by those linked to and on the periphery of the New IRA, they should be ashamed of what they are doing to the city and its younger generation
— Allison Morris (@AllisonMorris1) April 19, 2019
Hearing about Lyra McKee’s death took me back the weekly litany of misery & death from the North in the 80s & 90s. Senseless macho posturing becomes human tragedy, in an instant. She seemed like a genuinely brilliant person. What a loss RIP #LyraMcKee #lyra #NeverAgain
— luke mcmanus (@lukemcmanus) April 19, 2019
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