Belfast Telegraph

Friends remember victim as gifted writer who fought hard for justice

'Lyra fought for justice for everyone, so let's give her justice' ... close friend Ann Travers
'Lyra fought for justice for everyone, so let's give her justice' ... close friend Ann Travers
Colin McCusker of the Ulster Unionists
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A close friend of murdered journalist Lyra McKee said the shooting of "a courageous writer" on the streets of Londonderry was deliberate.

Ann Travers claimed that the dissident republican gunman who opened fire during rioting in the Creggan area of the city on Thursday night meant to murder and maim.

"They did it deliberately - it was on purpose," Lyra's heartbroken friend said.

"This riot had been planned because they wanted the headline of a policeman being murdered.

"But instead they got a murdered journalist and hopefully it causes a backlash from the entire community."

Ms Travers, whose 22-year-old sister Mary was shot dead and her father Tom, a magistrate, seriously injured in an IRA gun attack in 1984, pleaded for witnesses to contact the police to spare Lyra's devastated family unnecessary pain.

"There are so many good people in Derry and some of them know who pulled the trigger - they need to go to the PSNI," she added.

"Lyra fought for justice for everyone so let's give her justice and allow her family to get on with grieving for a beautiful daughter and sister."

Ms Travers expressed disgust at a statement released by republican group Saoradh, which is believed to be closely linked to the New IRA, which has been accused of orchestrating the violence.

In it Saoradh said the blame for Lyra's murder "lies squarely at the feet of the British Crown Forces who sought to grab headlines and engineered confrontation" within the community.

But Ms Travers said their rhetoric is from a bygone era.

"All the murder and mayhem of the Troubles achieved absolutely nothing," she said.

"All violence does is leave empty chairs and broken families.

"They have taken a young woman's life, and for what?"

Ms Travers described Lyra's passion for Derry, which saw her embrace everyone in the city she made her home shortly after Christmas - she had moved there to be with her partner Sara Canning.

"She was such a lovely, warm, compassionate and empathetic human being," Ms Travers continued.

"She was so happy - her career was going well, she had two books coming out, everything was going as it should for a young woman and gifted writer."

Ms Travers recalled how "terrified flyer" Lyra once joined her on a flight to London to meet columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards.

"She gripped onto the arms of the chair because she really wanted me to meet with Ruth," she said.

"Lyra spoke to people from all backgrounds and spent her life bringing people together - people who wouldn't normally talk to one another. She soon got over her fear of flying to continue doing that.

"But she didn't just fight for victims, she fought for a range of causes including LGBT issues in effort to make our world a better place.

"She didn't always get it right but could admit when she got it wrong.

"She was a strong advocate who was forensic in her approach to shine a light into the dark corners of this world which is now a darker place."

Former Ulster Unionist mayor of Craigavon Colin McCusker recalled how Lyra had enjoyed a Twelfth of July barbecue at his home in 2014.

"It was memorable and special," he wrote on Twitter.

"Lyra was grateful that I helped her understand what the Twelfth was all about for me.

"I am so, so sad today at this awful news."

Progressive Unionist Party worker William Ennis expressed his grief on social media.

"Tonight I received the worst phone call of my life," he wrote in a heartbreaking tweet. "I'm still absolutely numb. By God mate, I miss you already."

The CEO of Headliners - a charity which supports young people by giving them a voice - recalled fond memories of a much-loved member who was to become a trustee.

Fiona Wyton said: "I first remember Lyra as a feisty, confident young woman of 16 when I met her at our Belfast bureau."

The then 16-year-old began writing stories about bullying, arguing for reducing the voting age to 16, and became a passionate advocate for young people.

Lyra also took part in a visit to an international AIDS conference in Toronto.

Ms Wynton added: "She always said that when she first came to Headliners as a young teenager she was very shy, had low self-esteem and was destined to do badly in her GCSEs.

"Support from our staff gave her the determination to go on and work hard and follow her passion for writing and journalism."

Documentary film-maker Alison Millar was supposed to be hosting Lyra and her "soulmate" Sara for dinner last night. Instead she attended a vigil in memory of her beloved friend.

"It still hasn't sunk in," she said.

"People all over the world are horrified by this senseless killing, including in America and Canada where Lyra's work touched so many lives.

"She was so special, talented and beautiful and the scale of grief shows just how much she was loved."

Lyra was an editor for the news site Mediagazer.

Ms Millar said Lyra had never been happier since she met her partner around 12 months ago.

"They were desperately in love," she said. "They were just two soulmates.

"Lyra represented love and peace and her goodness broke down barriers.

"She was a shining star who will be in our hearts forever."

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