Belfast Telegraph

Priest at Lyra McKee funeral urges New IRA to walk away from violence

Father Martin Magill was addressing the service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

Lyra McKee (Family handout/PA)
Lyra McKee (Family handout/PA)

The dissident republican group that murdered journalist Lyra McKee has been urged to walk away from violence.

Father Martin Magill was addressing the funeral service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old was murdered by the New IRA in Londonderry last Thursday night after a gunman opened fire on a street full of people during disorder in the Creggan area.

To those still intent on violence, I ask you to listen to the majority of the people on your beloved island of Ireland who are calling on you to stop Father Martin Magill

“I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends,” Fr Magill told a congregation which included Prime Minister Theresa May and politicians from across the divide in the region.

“It was encouraging to see that those who provide a political analysis to the organisation responsible for her death chose to call off their parade on Easter Monday following the call from Father Joe Gormley, the parish priest in Creggan where Lyra was killed.

“To those still intent on violence, I ask you to listen to the majority of the people on your beloved island of Ireland who are calling on you to stop.”

Fr Magill said he “dares to hope” that the tragedy can be “the doorway to a new beginning”.

He paid tribute to those who had left red hand prints on the offices of the dissident republican political group Saoradh at the weekend, describing it as a “powerful gesture of non-violence”, and also commended those who have given information about the murder to police.

In death Lyra has united people of many different backgrounds as further evidenced by this diverse congregation at her funeral Father Martin Magill

“There is a rule in many of our communities that we do not, we should not, give information to police, and that to do so is to become a ‘tout’,” he said.

“But that was one of a number of rules – rules that also said that it was OK to brutalise children for petty crimes, or rules that say you can live in the locality until you are told you can’t, or rules that said the only way we could gain ‘freedom’ was by other fellow human beings losing their lives.

“But this week I have seen these rules turned on their head. I have seen many people stand up and condemn this culture of violence and coercive control.

“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.

“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.

“There will be special measures put in place to ensure your safety and where you will not be intimidated by coercive controllers, if you do so.”

Fr Magill also urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to start talking to reform the powersharing government which has been collapsed for more than two years.

“Many, many wonderful things have been said about her including the warm and deserved tributes paid to her by the Secretary of State and by MPs of all parties in the House of Commons yesterday evening,” he said.

“In death Lyra has united people of many different backgrounds as further evidenced by this diverse congregation at her funeral.”

The Belfast priest said he had met Ms McKee several times and told the funeral of her upbringing in the north of the city, attending Holy Family Primary School and St Gemma’s High School, where her love of Roald Dahl novels helped her overcome early struggles with reading, and her later love of the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling.

Many of those who attended the funeral wore Harry Potter merchandise in tribute to Ms McKee.

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A mourner in a Harry Potter scarf (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fr Magill recalled in recent years speaking with her as she researched her book The Lost Boys, about youngsters who had disappeared in the past, describing her as “like a dog with a bone” about the project.

“I certainly experienced her gentle, determined doggedness,” he said.

“I pray her work will be taken up and that their bodies will be found and, even more importantly, that there will be no more lost boys or lost girls.

“When I consider Lyra’s determination, it strikes me that she was the embodiment of the St Gemma’s school motto: truth and charity.”

PA

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