Belfast Telegraph

Lyra McKee murder: Hundreds gather for vigils in Belfast and Londonderry

Members of the public gather to pay tribute at Belfast City Hall
Members of the public gather to pay tribute at Belfast City Hall
The NUJ event at the Guildhall
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and DUP leader Arlene Foster shake hands at the vigil
Outpourings of grief at the Creggan vigil

By David Young

A Booker prize-winning writer from Belfast has paid tribute to murdered journalist Lyra McKee, saying: "She will never leave our hearts."

Milkman author Anna Burns was among hundreds who turned out at Belfast City Hall for a vigil yesterday evening.

The crowd stood for a minute's silence, which was followed by applause.

Speaking to the gathering of around 1,000 people, Ms Burns paid an emotional tribute to Lyra.

"She was always so helpful and generous. Her wee heart was always open - and she will never leave our hearts," she said.

Anna had met Lyra through the publisher that they shared - Faber & Faber in London - and the two women became close friends.

Last night Lyra had been scheduled to have dinner with both Anna and friend Alison Millar to discuss her forthcoming book, The Lost Boys, about the disappearance of children in 1970s Northern Ireland.

Ms Burns described Ms McKee as a "dear, dear friend" and said: "It's absolutely wonderful that you are all here for Lyra."

Her voice breaking with emotion, Alison Millar told the crowd, many of whom were holding candles, that Lyra "had touched the hearts of the world".

A book of condolence for Lyra was brought to the front steps of City Hall after the doors were closed for the night, to allow those waiting in a long queue to sign it.

A smiling photograph of the 29-year-old gazed across the rainbow flag-draped table which held the condolence book - along with a small posy of forget-me-not flowers.

Those attending were asked to talk to each other in memory of Lyra who, vigil organiser Conall McCorry reminded them, loved conversations.

John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Coalition read out Lyra's "Letter To My 14-year-old Self", in which she had written evocatively about facing challenging times at school and the moment she came out as gay to her mother, and her relief when her mother embraced her.

Journalist Henry McDonald had known and worked with Lyra since she was a teenager.

"It's awful," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "It reminds me of 2001, when Martin O'Hagan was shot dead - albeit he was deliberately targeted.

"But that does not diminish what's happened. It's just awful, unbelievable.

"But it's good to see the ordinary, decent people of this city and Derry come out against this disgusting behaviour." Publisher Tina Calder was among those who had travelled to Belfast's City Hall to sign the book of condolence.

She said: "Lyra was a forward-thinking, global-thinking journalist.

"It was all about reaching a global audience - and I really admired that about her.

"She was one of those people who had this amazing amount of tenacity and determination - and it was that which gave her an immense amount of empathy as well. She put her heart and soul into her stories.

"We're all still in shock. We're still kind of numb. We can't really believe she's gone."

Separate vigils were held in Londonderry, where Lyra was killed, and Dublin.

In Derry, NUJ members held a rally outside the Guildhall, with several hundred people attending the remembrance event.

Among the banners were a rainbow flag and those representing various trade unions.

A minute's silence was held.

A speaker on behalf of the NUJ told the crowd: "The NUJ stands by the right of its members to investigate and report the news.

"We are deeply shocked that our young member has become the latest of over 1,300 journalists who have been killed worldwide since 1992 simply for doing their job."

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