Belfast Telegraph

Priest: 'Why did it take Lyra McKee's murder to bring politicians together?'

Priest who challenged politicians receives a standing ovation

By Gareth Cross and Andrew Madden

The priest at the funeral of Lyra McKee received a standing ovation when he asked mourners why it took "the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her" to unite Northern Ireland's political parties.

Father Martin Magill made the comments in front of party leaders during Ms McKee's funeral service at St Anne's Cathedral on Wednesday.

"I commend our political leaders for standing together in Creggan on Good Friday," he said.

"I am however left with a question: ‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?"

The funeral cortege of the murdered journalist arrived outside the cathedral after passing Belfast's nearby Kremlin bar, a gay nightclub, where a number of people with rainbow flags were present.

The crowd applauded as the cortege arrived at the cathedral, with a white and pink floral heart carried in the hearse.

The cathedral was packed with around 600 mourners.

A large crowd gathered outside the cathedral to listen to the service on loud speakers.

In introductory comments, Dean Stephen Forde described Lyra as "a person who broke down barriers and reached across boundaries".

"This was her hallmark in life, this is her legacy in death," he said.

The coffin of journalist Lyra McKee is taken out of the church after her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral on April 24, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The coffin of journalist Lyra McKee is taken out of the church after her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral on April 24, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee
Irish Prime minister Leo Varadkar (R) and Prime Minister Theresa May (C) leave St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019, after attending the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP/Getty Images)
Irish President Michael D Higgins consoles Sara Canning, partner of the murdered journalist Lyra McKee as her funeral takes place at St. Anne's Cathedral (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Funeral and service of thanksgiving for journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn(centre) and Irish President Michael D Higgins(right) pictured at and at the funeral. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Mourners and friends pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.
Mourners react as the coffin of journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland on April 18, is placed into a hearse following her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019. - Lyra McKee, 29, who chronicled the troubled history of Northern Ireland, was shot in the head on April 18, 2019, as rioters clashed with police in Londonderry, the second city of the British province. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Funeral and service of thanksgiving for journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Mourners and friends pictured at the funeral. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DUP leader Arlene Foster at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee
Mourners listen to the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee outside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 24, 2019. Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18. See PA story FUNERAL McKee. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Mourners gesture as pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Lyra McKee (29), who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland on April 18, during the funeral service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019.
The funeral of Journalist Lyra McKee takes place at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The funeral of Journalist Lyra McKee takes place at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Mourners gather outside of St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019, during the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland on April 18. - Lyra McKee, 29, who chronicled the troubled history of Northern Ireland, was shot in the head on April 18, 2019, as rioters clashed with police in Londonderry, the second city of the British province. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Mourners gesture as pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Lyra McKee (29), who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland on April 18, during the funeral service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019. - Lyra McKee, 29, who chronicled the troubled history of Northern Ireland, was shot in the head on April 18, 2019, as rioters clashed with police in Londonderry, the second city of the British province. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
The coffin is carried into the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
The coffin is carried into the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 24, 2019. Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18. See PA story FUNERAL McKee. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
General view of the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÕs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Prime Minister Theresa May paying her condolences to the family of Lyra McKee
Mourners listen to the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee outside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar , Prime Mnister Theresa May and President Michael D Higgins before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Mourners arrive for the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Mourners embrace ahead of the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish President Michael D Higgins pictured at he funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Prime Minister Theresa May pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast.
President Michael D Higgins before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
A mourner arrives carrying a wreath for the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sin Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton. The funeral of Journalist Lyra McKee takes place at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald arrives for the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Leo Varadkar arrives for the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee at St Annes Cathedral on April 24, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 24: The congregation arrive for the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee at St Annes Cathedral on April 24, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Journalist and campaigner for LGBT rights, Lyra McKee, 29, was shot dead last Thursday while observing the rioting in Londonderry. Her family gave a statement in which they said her "openness and her desire to bring people together made her totally apolitical". The New IRA have admitted responsibility for her killing. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald pictured at he funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
The hearse carrying the body of murdered journalist Lyra McKee arrives at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Sinn Fein leader Michelle and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 Sinn Fein leader Michelle and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 24, 2019. Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18. See PA story FUNERAL McKee. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
President Michael D Higgins before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 24, 2019. Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18. See PA story FUNERAL McKee. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 Simon Coveney TD at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 SDLP leader Colum Eastwood at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye Northern Ireland Wednesday 24th April 2019 Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Mike Nesbitt pictured at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Michelle O'Neill, Vice President of Sinn Fein arrives for the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee at St Annes Cathedral on April 24, 2019 in Belfast
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald arrives for the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Naomi Long Alliance Party Leader at the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
General view of the funeral and service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Lyra McKee at St AnneÄôs Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. Lyra McKee was murdered in Creggan in Derry on Thursday 18th April. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
The funeral of Journalist Lyra McKee takes place at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Mourners begin to gather for the funeral of Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

He said she was a child of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended decades of violence and talked of the hopes for an end to the prejudices of the past and the possibilities of a new future.

Fr Magill, the Parish Priest at St John's in west Belfast, came to know Lyra through her work in journalism.

He touched on Lyra's love of Harry Potter and how it reflected in her own personality.

"I hadn’t heard the term ‘Hufflepuff’ until I did an internet search and found this definition - ‘Hufflepuff is the most inclusive among the four houses; valuing hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play.’ It struck me that the definition could just as easily have been about Lyra," he told the packed cathedral.

Fr Magill paid tribute to Lyra's love of reading and investigative journalism.

He said that "many of us will be praying that Lyra’s death in its own way will not have been in vain and will contribute in some way to building peace here".

"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."

I commend our political leaders for standing together in Creggan on Good Friday. I am however left with a question: ‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29 year old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point? Fr Magill

In his address, Fr Magill also called on Lyra's killers to end their dissident campaign of violence.

"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," he said.

Lyra's sister Nichola Corner said she was the kindest and most gentle person the world will never forget.

"We can create a society where labels are meaningless."

She added that every single person should get the chance to grow up and make their dreams come true.

"This is Lyra's legacy and we must carry it forward.

"This is the gift that God gave the world on the 31st of March 1990.

"We are all responsible for helping God's will to be fulfilled, each and every one of us."

She paid tribute to her sister's bond with her mother.

"Whilst a broken heart can never be mended and an empty space can never be filled, the unconditional love that they both shared for each other will continue for eternity."

Ms McKee's friend Stephen Lusty said her "starlight" filled the cathedral and he praised her as smart, kind and compassionate.

He said she was fearless and naive in her early days.

He said she often gave half her dinner money to a homeless person she had come across, making her late when she was due to meet him.

She was a "new age punk", the embodiment of the Troubles-era band Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative Ulster hit.

"She embodied the future of finding commonality, enjoying difference in others."

He said 40 years later her loss showed what it took to live in an Alternative Ulster.

They had been robbed of a talent destined to become a stateswoman, with only holes left behind.

Mr Lusty paid tribute to Lyra's relationship with Sara, and said that Lyra had been planning to propose on an upcoming trip to New York.

He said that she wanted to get married in Donegal in 2022.

Her friend said Miss McKee's lasting legacy should be peace.

"We have two choices, we can look into the holes and wait forever... or we can fill those holes today.

"Today we grieve but tomorrow let us fill that hole by adopting Lyra's future and vision."

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Irish Prime minister Leo Varadkar (R) and Prime Minister Theresa May (C) leave St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on April 24, 2019, after attending the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn travelled to Belfast for the funeral.

A wide range of political figures from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were also in attendance at the service.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Katherine Zappone, Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs were among them.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, UUP leader Robin Swann, Alliance leader Naomi Long and Green Party leader Clare Bailey represented Northern Ireland’s main parties.

They joined Lyra's partner Sara Canning (35) and family members including her mother Joan (68), sisters Nichola, Mary, Joan, brothers Gary and David, nieces and nephews and wider family circle.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) provided a guard of honour for her cortege.

Many of Ms McKee's friends wore Harry Potter and Marvel inspired outfits, in support of Lyra's love for the series.

Ms McKee was shot dead during rioting in the Creggan area of Londonderry last Thursday night.

Dissident republican group the New IRA has accepted responsibility for the 29-year-old journalist's death.

Her murder has sparked widespread condemnation across the world with former US President Bill Clinton among those to speak out against it.

The service was followed by burial in Carnmoney Cemetery.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton made a statement outside St Anne's Cathedral following the funeral service.

The order of service is below:

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