Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents have blood on their hands, say Lyra McKee's friends as they stage Saoradh protest

A woman defaces the wall of Saoradh’s office in Londonderry
A woman defaces the wall of Saoradh’s office in Londonderry
A floral tribute to Lyra McKee

By Cate McCurryand Adrian Rutherford

Friends of murdered journalist Lyra McKee defaced an office belonging to a dissident republican-linked group by putting red hand prints on the walls of its headquarters in Londonderry.

It came amid growing backlash against Saoradh, which is associated with the so-called New IRA, in the wake of her killing.

Some of Ms McKee's friends walked to Junior McDaid House, where they used a pot of red paint to place the prints on the side of the office walls.

Red palm prints were last night being used as a symbol of protest online, with many on Twitter using it as their profile photo.

Several posts by Saoradh, which denies acting as a mouthpiece for the New IRA, were met with hundreds of replies containing palm prints.

Yesterday the detective leading the hunt for Ms McKee's killer said the murder investigation was progressing at a rapid pace.

Detective superintendent Jason Murphy revealed that more than 140 people have contacted police with information via the a major incident portal.

The New IRA has been blamed for the murder of Ms McKee (29), who died after being shot during rioting in the Creggan area last Thursday night.

Two teenagers arrested over the killing were released without charge on Sunday.

Last night Det Supt Murphy said there has been a "massive" public response to the police investigation.

Issuing a fresh appeal for information, he added: "This was an attack on the community. Lyra, tragically, was a random victim and I need the public to continue to support us.

"Many witnesses have contacted us to give us information that has been provided to them.

"More than 140 people have contacted us via our major incident public portal with messages, including mobile phone footage.

"House-to house enquiries are continuing and all of that is to be welcomed.

"My challenge is, how do I convert that community intelligence and information into raw evidence that allows me bring offenders to justice?"

Sources said the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) have discussed what measures could be available to protect witnesses who are fearful of giving evidence at any future trial.

Det Supt Murphy urged witnesses who haven't come forward to contact detectives.

He added: "I know there are people in the community who have information but feel they can't come forward to us, who feel scared.

"We have sought prosecutorial advice from the PPS and I want to reassure you that we will work with you sensitively and give you all the support we can."

His plea followed the red paint protest in Derry by Ms McKee's friends.

A group of six men, understood to be Saoradh members, stood outside the building. PSNI officers were also present and later asked for the names of those involved in the incident.

Lyra's friend Sinead Quinn, who took part in the protest, said: "We have used red paint because they have blood on their hands for what has happened.

"They have encouraged it, they have moulded these young people into what they are and they are standing behind them handing them guns.

"They need to take responsibility today for what has happened.

"They have shirked it so far by saying it was an accidental shooting.

"You don't shoot accidentally."

She added: "When you put a gun into someone's hand and they shoot it, that's murder.

"Lyra deserves more and I am so glad there are so many people here to see and watch these men looking at us.

"They are not a representation of republican people in this town.

"Those people don't represent (republicanism). Nobody can advocate shooting into a crowd of people and shooting a 29-year-old woman dead.

"People have been afraid to stand up to people like this, we are not afraid."

Another friend said: "We have had enough.

"There is a younger generation coming up in the town and they don't need guns put in their hands.

"They need jobs, they need a better health service and education.

"They need a life, not a gun put in their hands."

The group of friends have pledged to do more in Lyra's memory.

"Lyra's McKee's name will never be forgotten in this town," Ms Quinn added.

"We have to do it for her."

Local resident John Lindsay said: "We are using this as an opportunity to speak out against these people.

"The whole town has told them they are not wanted here."

Ms McKee's funeral will held at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast tomorrow.

The funeral, described as a "celebration of her life", will be attended by political and faith leaders from across Northern Ireland.

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