Partner of New IRA victim Lyra hits out at Saoradh chief's 'appalling' remarks
Further violence in NI is ‘inevitable’, he claims
The partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee has branded comments by the chairman of Saoradh that her death was "regrettable" as "absolutely appalling".
Brian Kenna, leader of the party believed to be the political wing of the New IRA, also said that a continuation of violence in Northern Ireland is "inevitable".
Mr Kenna denied any knowledge of the gunman responsible for Lyra's murder in Londonderry four months ago.
Mr Kenna, who is a convicted IRA member and was jailed for 10 years for his part in an armed robbery, told Sky News: "The death of Lyra McKee was a very tragic event.
"It genuinely came about because of the heavy presence of the PSNI, flooding into Derry at seven o'clock in the evening, into parts of the Creggan. It was shocking and tragic and we're on record as saying that we regret that death very, very much."
When asked if he knew who the gunman was, Mr Kenna said: "No, I've no idea of the events of that night."
He added that young Irish people have always taken up arms and that this will continue.
"I believe that it's inevitable. It will always happen so long as the country is artificially divided and held by force of arms; people will always strike out against that occupation," Mr Kenna said.
He continued: "If young people in the six counties have been more politicised and in some sense radicalised by events of recent times, then what's wrong with that?"
Lyra (29) was fatally shot during rioting in the Creggan area of the city on April 18. The New IRA has admitted responsibility for her death.
Saoradh denies that it is the political wing of the New IRA.
Last night, Lyra's partner Sara Canning said those who killed her were "sickening cowards".
Posting on social media, she said: "Absolutely appalling statement by Brian Kenna, Lyra was murdered because one of his men fired a gun toward a heavily armoured vehicle which had a crowd near it. They proved the police's reason for being there by bringing a gun onto the streets and putting lives in danger, and ultimately murdering the love of my life.
"Had no gun come out they could have claimed unfair oppression, instead they totally justified the police presence.
"They murdered Lyra, and put many more lives in danger.
"It was not an accident, it wasn't just regrettable, it was despicable. The blatant disregard for the people of the town and beyond is staggering.
"No lives should have been lost that night. There is no justification for murder."
Ms Canning added: "The police inside that vehicle did not deserve to die, they also did not deserve to have to fight in vain to save Lyra's life.
"They did something heroic that night, which is something that no Saoradh or New IRA person can ever say. Cowards every one of them. Sickening cowards."
Nine people have been arrested and released in connection with Lyra's murder. However, no one has been charged.
Mr Kenna has also denied any overlap in the leadership of Saoradh and the New IRA and refused to condemn violence carried out by the dissident republican group. But Stephen Martin, deputy chief constable of the PSNI, said he has no doubt about the link between Saoradh and the New IRA.
"There are people who are members of Saoradh who are members of the New IRA and some of them are in leadership positions in the New IRA.
"So, there is that inextricable link between the two organisations," he said.
Mr Martin also said there has been an increase in New IRA activity this year and six attempts to kill police officers last year.
He added: "Four of those incidents were very determined attempts to kill police officers … but violence isn't inevitable, nor is it excusable."