Belfast Telegraph

Lyra McKee’s death should mark new beginning, priest tells funeral

Father Martin Magill said dissident republican gunmen who killed the journalist should lay down their arms.

A mourner wearing a Gryffindor scarf holds an order of service as she arrives for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee (Brain Lawless/PA)
A mourner wearing a Gryffindor scarf holds an order of service as she arrives for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee (Brain Lawless/PA)

The death of Lyra McKee should mark a new beginning for Northern Ireland, a priest has told mourners.

Dissident republican gunmen who killed the Belfast-born journalist, 29, should lay down their arms, Father Martin Magill added.

He urged politicians at Northern Ireland’s suspended powersharing administration to work together to produce a better life for young people.

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Friends arrive for the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee (Liam McBurney/PA)

Fellow journalists formed a guard of honour as the service for their murdered colleague began in Belfast.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Irish premier Leo Varadkar, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney were among those who attended.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister Theresa May and President Michael D Higgins before the funeral service (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ms McKee was killed by indiscriminate fire as she observed clashes between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on April 18.

Her funeral was cross-community and mourners spanned both sides of the Irish border.

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Mourners embrace ahead of the funeral at St Anne’s (Brian Lawless/PA)

Catholic priest Fr Magill said: “I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.”

The service of thanksgiving was held in the Church of Ireland’s St Anne’s Cathedral, a short distance from her north Belfast home.

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The coffin is carried into the funeral service (Liam McBurney/PA)

Fr Magill said: “To those who had any part in her murder, I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee, journalist and writer, as a powerful example of ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.

“I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends.”

Since the killing many have condemned the culture of violence and coercive control practised by dissidents, the clergyman said.

“We need to send a very different message and so I appeal to those who have information about Lyra’s murder but who haven’t yet come forward to do so now.

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The service sheet for the funeral (PA)

“If you want to see an end to these brutal rules, and see a new society built on justice and fairness, on hope and not fear, then you can help build that society by letting the police know what you know.”

He called on political leaders to break the Stormont negotiations impasse.

“I pray that Lyra’s murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive in previous assemblies and to begin anew.”

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Flowers at the spot where Lyra McKee was killed in Creggan (Aoife Moore/PA)

Those attending the funeral were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comics merchandise in tribute to the journalist’s passion for both.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) formed the guard of honour.

The congregation was led by Ms McKee’s partner Sara Canning, 35, her mother Joan McKee, 68, brothers Gary and David and sisters Joan, Nichola and Mary.

Her family have paid tribute to a “gentle, innocent soul” whose “desire to bring people together made her totally apolitical”.

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Sara Canning (Brian Lawless/PA)

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

Police believe the violence in Derry was orchestrated in response to an earlier search by officers aimed at averting imminent trouble associated with the anniversary of the Easter Rising.

PA

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