Belfast Telegraph

Lyra McKee’s heartbroken friends find strength in what she stood for

A tribute to Lyra
A tribute to Lyra
Lyra's partner Sara’s floral tribute
The image of Lyra imposed on the Derry Girls mural
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The mood was a sombre one in Creggan yesterday. Although the sun was shining, a dark cloud still hung over the area after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee on Thursday night.

Her friends gathered to leave floral tributes for the young woman they described as a "force of nature encased in a tiny frame", who shone with beauty, kindness, empathy and compassion.

They gathered around a plaque from "the people of Derry" that said Lyra's murder was "not in our name".

The friends stood with their arms around one another, crying, remembering the Belfast girl who had made Derry her home and telling stories of the woman who had so much still to give, so much more life to live.

Her best friend Kathleen Bradley, standing at the place where the 29-year-old fell, said that killing innocent people "wouldn't get us anywhere".

"It is totally senseless," she said. "There is absolutely nothing that can justify this.

"Nothing can justify taking Lyra's life from her."

Around the corner at Central Drive, where Lyra's masked killer emerged from the shadows to fire the fatal shots, pro-dissident graffiti, which had previously read 'IRA, Undefeated, Unfinished Business', had been adapted to read 'IRA are gone, defeated 2019, finished business'.

The graffiti had been painted along the route of the cancelled contentious dissident Easter Monday commemoration that police had said was "unlawful".

Tensions over the parade had sparked the serious rioting during which Lyra lost her life.

Across the road the words 'Not In My Name' had been scrawled on the side of the community centre. On the front of the city's Free Derry Corner the words 'Not In Our Name, RIP Lyra' had been daubed on the famous landmark. Friends shared it online yesterday with the tagline "our hearts may be broken, but our resolve is fierce".

A friend who is a graphic designer superimposed Lyra's face into the Derry Girls mural, with the words Our Derry Girl emblazoned across the top.

Hundreds of people changed their Facebook cover photos in honour of the much-loved adopted daughter of the city.

Yesterday an online petition was launched urging politicians to take their seats at Stormont so that Lyra's death "would not have been in vain".

There were also calls for those voting in the May 2 council elections to write Lyra McKee on their ballot papers.

Last night her partner Sara Canning and friends asked that those attending Lyra's funeral on Wednesday at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast wear Harry Potter or Marvel related items to celebrate her life. Standing at the place where Lyra lost her life, her friends remembered her as someone who was constantly trying to make a change whether it be with her activism, or with her research and writing.

Her name, one of her friends told me, represented a constellation that lies in the northern sky.

And her memory will shine bright for her heartbroken friends and family as they try to navigate the dark days and months ahead without her.

Belfast Telegraph

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