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'An incredible talent': Tributes paid to 'rising star' Lyra McKee, journalist shot dead during rioting in Derry

PSNI have launched a murder investigation following the 29 year-old’s killing.

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to Lyra McKee, the 29 year-old journalist shot dead during rioting in Derry.

PSNI have launched a murder investigation following her killing in the Fanad Drive area of Creggan last night.

They believe the shooting, which followed searches of a number of properties in the area, was carried out by a dissident republican and are appealing for witnesses.

Speaking to the media, her partner Sara Canning said:

The senseless murder of Lyra McKee has left a family without a beloved daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a great aunt, has left so many friends without their confident, victims in the LGBTQIA community are left without a tireless advocate and activist, and it has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with.
We are all poor for the loss of Lyra. Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act.
This cannot stand.
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 has left behind.

Father Joseph Gormley told BBC Radio Foyle that Lyra’s partner and family were “heartbroken” and described the moment that he met them in hospital last night.

“They just thought it was somebody else, they really thought it had to be somebody else, [that] it wasn’t Lyra. But unfortunately it was,” he said.

Gormley also condemned those responsible for the killing and said the community would stand beside Lyra’s family in the coming days and weeks.

“I would love if those people who had fired those shots came over and saw what they did last night,” he said.

“If they came over and saw that scene of a young woman and her family… This is their Good Friday, and we have to stand beside them on this terrible cross that has been visited on them by such an evil, evil act.”

‘Rising star’

At the time of her death, Lyra was working on two books: Angels with Blue Faces, to be published this year with Excalibur Press, and The Lost Boys to be published by Faber, who described her as a “rising star”, next year.

She also appeared in Forbes magazine’s European edition of ’30 under 30′ when she was 25; the magazine said it was Lyra’s “passion… to dig into topics that others don’t care about”.

Paying tribute, President Michael D Higgins described Lyra as a “woman of talent and commitment” and extended his sympathies to those close to her.

“Sabina and I send our deepest sympathies to her family and friends and to all those who knew her and worked with her,” he said.

Matthew Hughes, who described Lyra as one of his closest friends, said he was devastated by the news.

“She was my mentor. She was a groomswoman at my wedding. I can’t imagine life without her, and yet now I must. I’m devastated,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley described Lyra’s death as “a loss to journalism” and said it was “a dark day”.

In a statement issued later this afternoon, Dooley called Lyra a journalist of “courage, style and integrity”.

“She was a woman of great commitment and passion,” he said.

“I have no doubt that it was that commitment which led to her presence on the streets of the Creggan last night, observing a riot situation in the city.”

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet also paid tribute to Lyra, calling her death “a major loss to journalism”.

“A young, vibrant life has been destroyed in a senseless act of violence,” she said.

“Our thoughts are with her partner, family and many friends and colleagues. A bright light has been quenched and that plunges all of us in to darkness.”

Solidarity

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney also expressed their sympathies to Lyra’s loved ones.

“I would like to express my sincere condolences to Lyra’s family, her partner Sara and her friends,” Varadkar said.

“Our solidarity also goes out to the people of Derry and to the entire journalism community.”

Meanwhile, Coveney called on anyone with information about Lyra’s death to report it to the PSNI.

“The news from Derry is shocking and tragic…There is no justification for this tragic loss of life and I call on those intent on violence and disturbances to stop,” he said in a statement.

Lyra’s death was also condemned across the political divide in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said her heart went out to the 29 year-old’s family and condemned those responsible for her killing.

“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,” she said in a statement.

“My first thoughts and that of my party are with the family of the woman killed. This is a senseless loss of life.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also extended his thoughts to Lyra’s family, saying they were experiencing an “unthinkable loss” in the most heartbreaking circumstances.

“We have all lost an incredible young talent,” he said.

“She had a passionate thirst for the truth and for telling the stories of people who had been forgotten or abandoned.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster also condemned the killing, which she described as “heartbreaking”.

Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Constable for District Policing Mark Hamilton described Lyra’s death as an attack on the people of Derry.

“It has had horrendous consequences, and will affect people for many years,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called Lyra’s killing “shocking and senseless”, and paid tribute to the 29 year-old as “a journalist who died doing her job with courage”.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

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