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'They must be brought to justice': Leaders of NI parties issue joint statement condemning killing of Lyra McKee

In a rare unified statement, the six leaders said the attack was also an attack on the members of the Derry community.

Petrol bombs are thrown at police in Creggan, Derry, last night.
Petrol bombs are thrown at police in Creggan, Derry, last night.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE LEADERS OF the six main parties in Northern Ireland have released a joint statement condemning the murder of Belfast journalist Lyra McKee in a shooting in Derry last night.

In a rare unified statement, the six leaders said the attack was also an attack on the members of the Derry community, and that the attackers had no support in Northern Ireland and should disband immediately. 

McKee died from injuries she sustained from the shooting last night during riots in the Creggan area of Derry.

The PSNI has labelled the killing as a terrorist attack and suggest it is linked to dissident Republican activity in the area.

The statement today was released by Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin), Arlene Foster (DUP), Robin Swan (UUP), Colum Eastwood (SDLP), Naomi Long (Alliance) and Clare Bailey (Green Party).

“We want to express our condemnation in the strongest terms possible at the murder of journalist Lyra McKee,” the leaders said.

“The murder of Lyra McKee is first and foremost a devastating loss for her grieving partner, family and friends, and our thoughts are with them at this awful time.

“Lyra’s murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.

“It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.

“We are united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime. They have no support in the community, must be brought to justice and should disband immediately.

We reiterate our support for the PSNI, who while carrying out their duties were also the target of last night’s attack. We call on anyone with any information to bring that forward to the police and assist their inquiries.

“This is a time for calm heads.”

Political condemnation 

The killing of Lyra – who covered events linked to legacy of the Troubles and had recently relocated to Derry from Belfast – has sparked widespread condemnation across the political divide. 

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended his condolences to Lyra’s partner, family and friends and said that she had “changed our lives as she lived and will do so again in death”. 

“Twenty-one years ago today, on Good Friday, we as a people, North and South, chose peace, power-sharing and ever-closer co-operation. We will not be dragged back into the past.

There is no place nor any justification for political violence in Ireland, or Northern Ireland today.

He called the killing an act of “fear”, “hate” and “cowardice” and said the people who carried it out do not share the values of “our nation, nor our Republic”.

“I want to express my solidarity with the people of Derry today. We stand with you as strong as your walls, and for as long as they stand. I want to acknowledge the work and the bravery of the PSNI and the emergency services,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by the other party leaders. 

PSNI update 

In its latest update, the PSNI said that Lyra’s killer “and those who share his warped ideology should hang their heads in shame today – they represent no one”.

“Lyra’s murder has appalled not just people across this city, but people around the world and there has been a global wave of shock and sympathy from her colleagues in journalism, politicians, church and community leaders,” said Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin.

Today is Good Friday and it’s a cruel twist in our history that 21 years ago the majority of people in Northern Ireland signed up to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement yet here we are today mourning the loss of a talented young woman, a young journalist who was also a daughter, a sister and a partner.

Police officers dealt with significant riots in Creggan last night, with people throwing petrol bombs, hijacking vehicles and setting them alright and causing serious damage. 

Martin said the people behind the riots had one aim: “they set out to kill and take the life of a police officer”.

“We have now launched a murder investigation to find the gunman who murdered Lyra and bring those responsible for the orchestrated violence that has been shown on television screens around the world to justice,” he said.

And this is where now, more than ever, we need the public to help us.

Martin called on the people who know those who set out to cause the riots and the killing to come forward.

“You have to help make this madness stop. Please, pick up the phone and make a difference,” he said. 

He appealed for calm coming into the Easter weekend and asked for people to do what they could to stop the violence.  

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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