Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley text convinced PM May to go to murdered Lyra's funeral

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar , ex-PM Theresa May, President Michael D Higgins and Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle during the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast (PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar , ex-PM Theresa May, President Michael D Higgins and Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle during the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast (PA)
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Former Secretary of State Karen Bradley texted Theresa May directly to urge the then Prime Minister to attend the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee last April.

And it was Mrs May's attendance at the service in Belfast that made up her mind to do all she could to ensure same-sex marriage laws would be changed in Northern Ireland.

Details of the exchange are revealed in a new book May At 10 by political historian and commentator Sir Anthony Seldon.

It reports that Mrs Bradley went over the head of Number 10 to text the Prime Minister directly after it was feared Mrs May's attendance at the funeral of the journalist, held at St Anne's Cathedral on April 24, was too great a security risk.

Ms McKee was shot observing a riot on April 18.

The Prime Minister had not been among the political leaders to visit the Creggan area of Londonderry in the wake of the murder.

Sir Anthony claims that advisers at Number 10 recommended that Mrs May stay in London rather than make the trip to Belfast.

Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee

The message from the Secretary of State changed her mind.

"It was an absolute no brainer," Mrs Bradley said.

"She's at her most comfortable in a church. Here was a gay journalist, young, passionate. It was a real moment for the PM when she could show the world who she was and let her humanity out.

"She came and was so good with everybody at the funeral, with Lyra's family, with the mourners.

"She tuned into the whole situation, was deeply moved and was adamant afterwards that talks had to be urgently restarted and the laws on same-sex marriage changed."

Several thousand attended the funeral of Lyra McKee, where mourners heard Fr Martin Magill challenge politicians with the words: "Why in God's name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her..."

The Prime Minister was among those who, "albeit with some awkwardness", according to the author, rose to her feet in the standing ovation after hearing the challenge.

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