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NI police issue fresh information appeal a year on from Lyra McKee killing

The 29-year-old was shot dead during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry last year.

Updated Apr 17th 2020, 9:08 AM

POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland have issued a fresh appeal for information ahead of the first anniversary of the murder of Lyra McKee.

Tomorrow marks one year since the 29 year-old journalist was killed by the New IRA as she observed rioting in the Creggan estate in Derry. 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has sent letters to those living close to where she was killed urging them to bring any new information forward to detectives.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy has offered anonymity to anyone who may be able to help the police investigation.

“While this appeal for information is being distributed by the police, it is also a direct appeal from the McKee family for help in getting justice for Lyra,” he said.

“The community as a whole was devastated by Lyra’s murder. Condemnation of her killing was unequivocal.

In the letter, Murphy asks for mobile phone footage or photographs from the night, as well as requesting to speak to anyone who was present and can identify those involved in the disorder and has first-hand evidence relating to the events which preceded or followed Lyra’s murder.

To mark the occasion, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is set to hold a symbolic virtual commemoration from 11am on Saturday, using social media to pay tribute to Lyra with the hashtag #WeStandWithLyra.

The union hopes those taking part will share examples of Lyra’s journalism, as well as tributes to her, memories and pictures.

The union’s Séamus Dooley said a gathering on social media was all that was possible while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place across the island of Ireland, but suggested it was a fitting medium because it was one which Lyra used effectively.

“Her partner and family will be in our thoughts as the NUJ community unites under the banner ‘WeStandWithLyra’,” he said.

“That slogan remains relevant; Lyra’s positive spirit serves as an inspiration in these dark days.”

Easter weekend 

The shooting of Lyra McKee followed a number of searches by police in the Creggan area of Derry ahead of the Easter weekend last year.

The PSNI believed that dissident republicans were storing weapons and explosives for a number of planned attacks, possibly to have taken place over the weekend in the city.

At the time, they said that after searches began, a crowd gathered and around 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers. Two vehicles were also hijacked and set on fire.

By 11pm, around 100 people had gathered in the area, including young people and members of the media.

Around this time, it is believed that a gunman fired a number of shots, one of which fatally wounded the 29 year-old.

The killing was condemned across the North’s political spectrum, as well as by the Taoiseach, President Michael D Higgins and then UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Loud applause subsequently erupted at Lyra’s funeral at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, when the priest celebrating the mass openly challenged the North’s politicians about the continued absence of the Stormont Executive at the time.

Fr Martin Magill initially commended political leaders for gathering together in Creggan after her death, but asked: “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 to this point?”

Months of talks and false starts followed, befre the Executive was finally restored earlier this year.

The day after a deal was announced, Tánaiste Simon Coveney paid tribute to Lyra and Fr Magill for helping to inspire the return of Stormont after a three-year absence.

“Sitting in St Anne’s Cathedral as that wave of applause hit the most senior politicians from the UK and Ireland is a moment I will never forget,” he wrote in TheJournal.ie.

“It has inspired and driven me in the months that have passed since. So too have Northern Ireland’s political leaders, who came together and showed leadership and commitment in Derry in the immediate wake of Lyra’s murder.”

Ceasefire baby 

Those who knew Lyra described her as a kind, funny, dedicated woman who was devoted to dragging Northern Ireland out of its dark past.

She was a journalist in the North who was dedicated to covering the topics and telling the stories of marginalised people. 

Growing up off the Antrim Road in north Belfast, a stretch known as the Murder Mile because of the number of killings that took place there during the Troubles, Lyra wrote about her experiences coming of age in a city post-conflict, but one which still held onto the trauma of the past. 

In a piece for The Atlantic - Suicide Among the Ceasefire Babies – she wrote about the lives of her and her friends and the sharp increases in suicides in Northern Ireland over the last two decades. 

She wrote: 

We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, spared from the horrors of war. But still, the aftereffects of those horrors seemed to follow us. 

Among other topics, she wrote about the families of people killed in the Troubles investigating the murders themselves; about suicide among the Ceasefire babies; and about the legacy issues of her country’s past. 

Lyra was gay and had moved from Belfast to Derry to live with her partner prior to her death. 

At the time of her death, one of her best known articles was a deeply personal piece she wrote in 2014 - Letter to my 14 Year old Self - when she was 24 years old. 

The piece was a response to homophobic comments made by a Northern Irish pastor. It is a letter written to younger version of herself, consoling and comforting and letting her know it was going to be okay. 

Speaking to the Irish Times in 2017, Lyra spoke about the piece and the difficulties faced by young people coming out in conservative and religious households in Northern Ireland.

She called on the church to acknowledge the environment they had created in fostering hostile attitudes towards gay people throughout the years:

The church needs to acknowledge the legacy they have created. When people see scripture as a licence to violate and punish people… the bar is set much lower for the local thug who thinks he can kick my head in. The church needs to deal with that. 

Lyra’s mother Joan Lawrie died last month, weeks ahead of the first anniversary of her shooting. Lyra had been her mother’s main carer before her death.

A murder investigation into Lyra McKee’s death is ongoing, and one man remains in custody charged with murder, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and belonging to or professing to be a member of a proscribed organisation.

With reporting from Press Association. Comments are closed as a case is before the courts.

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