Belfast Telegraph

Dissident republicans behind Lyra McKee killing 'no better than paedophiles, says partner Sara Canning

'Important having working government doing what’s right for people of Northern Ireland'

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee has compared those dissident republicans behind her killing to paedophiles in the way they groom youths and attract them into a world of violence.

She also rounded on Northern Ireland's political leaders telling them to look beyond their red lines and restore the devolved institutions.

"Same sex marriage and an Irish language act are important, she said.

"They are important don’t get me wrong but what’s more important is having a working government who are doing what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland."

Sara Canning was speaking in an interview with Channel 4 News' chief correspondent Alex Thomson on Wednesday night - the day Lyra had planned to propose to her in New York's Central Park.

She also revealed she told Prime Minister Theresa May she had been "derelict" in her duty to Northern Ireland at the Belfast funeral of Lyra and her government had to step into the current political void. She also told Karen Bradley she was "doing a pretty terrible job" as Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

Lyra McKee (29) was killed as she observed rioting in Derry's Creggan estate last month. The so-called new IRA claimed responsibility offering it's "full and sincere apologies" to family and friends of the reporter.

Ms Canning described the apology as "mealy mouthed". She said they had taken away the life of someone who had made Derry their home, who loved it and was "chomping a the bit" to make a difference.

They’re literally a scourge on their communities.

"You can’t apologise for killing someone," she said. "You can’t call it an accidental shooting. You fire a gun at a crowd, that’s not an accidental shooting. You’re aiming to shoot someone. I mean, it’s ridiculous.

Lyra and her partner Sara Canning
Lyra and her partner Sara Canning

“It was so indiscriminate. There was no regard for human life. Why are we protecting that? And if it is your child, I would be ashamed to have a child that had done that. I’d be ashamed.

"They’re not defending anyone. They’re literally a scourge on their communities. They’re a scourge. They are a scourge.

"What I would say is, and this might be heavy-handed, and people might speak out against it or whatever. But I don’t really care.

"They are grooming young men and women. They’re no better, they speak out about paedophile gangs, but they’re no better than paedophiles.

"They literally take young people who are disenfranchised at the best of times, who are living in poverty, who don’t see a future for themselves in Northern Ireland because there is literally very little here for them. And they tell them that the way forward is a gun in their hand. The way forward is never a gun in your hand.”

Ms Canning said she and Lyra had been observing the rioting, just behind police lines, for a total of eight minutes. She said Lyra had "gone into reporting mode". She said she had at first thought Lyra had tripped over her own feet when she fell to the ground.

"I noticed that she had a head wound and I put my hand to it and I started screaming for help."

The way forward is never a gun in your hand.

During Lyra's funeral, Sara said she saw red at some of those in attendance at the service in St Anne's Cathedral. She said she urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar "as a world leader" to help facilitate talks to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland.

"Karen Bradley offered her condolences and I accepted them graciously. And I wasn’t rude. But I did tell her that she was doing a pretty terrible job as the Secretary of State. Her lack of knowledge around Northern Ireland was appalling. She needed to go and educate herself. How on earth she had taken a job where she had no knowledge of the area.

"She was very gracious I have to say. She nodded and she agreed with me that she had said things that were completely misguided and that she’s gone and educated herself.

"As a Derry woman to offer your condolences on Lyra when you have turned around and said that soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday were doing their job in a dignified manner. I said they are no different to the thug that opened fire in Creggan on Holy Thursday and shot Lyra.”

Karen Bradley faced calls to quit after she told the Commons killings carried out by the police and military during the Troubles were not crimes, rather actions of people "fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way". She later apologised saying her remarks were wrong and "insensitive".

Sara Canning said the message she left with the Prime Minister was for her government to govern in Northern Ireland and for Theresa May to say issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion law reform were for Stormont to introduce was "out of order" given the collapse of the institutions.

"It's been shown we can’t work together – so the British government has to be our government. And they have to be our voice and they have to do better.

"We’ve been left adrift. There’s people missing out on operations and there’s schools missing out on funding. There’s head teachers having to go out and buy toilet roll for their primary schools, because they don’t have the funds to do that.”

Lyra had been planning a romantic break in American and had worked out an "elaborate" proposal at a lake house in Central Park. She had planned it with a friend. Sara said Lyra was great at planning and she had gone into the minutest of detail putting her "heart and soul" into the planning.

She added: "It’s been almost three weeks. I’ve not come to terms with it. I still expect to hear from her every morning. I expect to wake up beside her, and I don’t."

Police are investigating and have made a number of arrests in connection with the killing of Lyra McKee. They said the response from the community was positive and they have agreed to provide anonymity to those who come forward with information.

A UK Government spokesman said: "The Government supports the extension of marriage equality right across the United Kingdom, including for the people of Northern Ireland.

"However, we continue to believe that the best outcome is for a restored Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to take forward this as a devolved issue as a matter of priority.

"We are absolutely focused on the restoration of devolved government through the ongoing process of talks."

The Northern Ireland Office has been approached for a response.

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