Killing of journalist in Northern Ireland ‘unfathomable’

Lyra McKee, 29, has been remembered as a talented and accomplished investigative journalist.

Lyra McKee, 29, was standing near police officers when a gunman began shooting at them [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]
Lyra McKee, 29, was standing near police officers when a gunman began shooting at them [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

The killing of a young journalist, Lyra McKee, in the city of Londonderry on Thursday evening has raised the spectre of a return to violence in Northern Ireland on the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The 29-year-old was shot dead during a riot in Creggan, an area on the outskirts of the city where violence and local distrust of the police are common. 

McKee had been standing near a police van when a masked gunman opened fire.

The riot began after security forces raided the area in search of firearms ahead of this weekend’s commemoration of Irish independence.

A crowd of about 100 people, including journalists, had gathered at the scene, where young people had thrown petrol bombs at police and set two vehicles on fire.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has opened an investigation into the killing and said dissident republicans calling themselves “the New IRA” were likely to be responsible.

Saoradh, an unregistered party formed by Irish republicans, who are accused of being the political wing of the so-called “New IRA”, said in a statement that Lyra was “killed accidentally” by a “Republican volunteer”. 

‘She wanted to write about people she thought were voiceless’

McKee has been remembered as a talented and accomplished investigative journalist dedicated to documenting Northern Ireland’s recovery from 30 years of sectarian conflict, known as The Troubles, between largely Catholic republicans, who wanted to reunite Ireland as one country, and mostly Protestant unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain British.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement largely put an end to that conflict, however paramilitary groups have continued to exist on both sides.

The National Union of Journalists said McKee was “one of the most promising journalists” in Northern Ireland.

Sarah Kay, a friend of McKee’s, met McKee while the journalist was working on a book about how young people, who are not direct victims of the conflict, are affected and traumatised by it.

“She wanted to write about them, she wanted to write about people she thought were voiceless, or that no one cared about,” Kay told Al Jazeera. “I think it’s in that spirit that she was [in Creggan] yesterday.”

“She was very committed to the position she felt she was in, and believed she had a very important role to play, as all journalists do,” Kay said. “It’s a loss to all the community of Northern Ireland.”

The two met in Belfast, where McKee had lived before moving to the city known by Catholics as Derry and by Protestants as Londonderry to live with her girlfriend.

“She was somebody who was very committed to the peace process, very committed to integration and inclusion, to the end of sectarianism,” Kay said. “It’s just unfathomable that she was killed by paramilitaries.” 

“People in Derry have been suffering a lot in the last few months, there’s been a lot of rioting, a lot of violence,” Kay, a 35-year-old lawyer, continued.

A car bomb that exploded outside a courthouse in the city in January made international headlines amid concerns that Brexit could revive old divisions.  

“It seems that this time it crossed the line, it went too far,” Kay continued. “People are condemning the murder left, right and centre. I think last night drew a line on what people were willing to live with, especially in Creggan.”

McKee was writing a book on the disappearance of young people during three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland [Jess Lowe Photography/Reuters]



Source: Al Jazeera

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