Belfast Telegraph

Terrible irony in Lyra McKee death, she would have told killer's story and tried to help, says sister

Nichola Corner in plea to those responsible to hand themselves in

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The sister of Lyra McKee has said there is a “terrible irony” in the journalist’s murder, as those responsible had robbed themselves of someone who would have reached out to them, told their story and tried to help them move forward.

Nichola Corner — Lyra’s “second mummy” — told Channel 4 News she was still expecting her to burst through her door at any minute or to pick up the phone and hear her sister’s voice at the other end. She said she lost part of her soul on the night Lyra was killed, but said her death must not be in vain.

“She deserves justice and those people need to really think about handing themselves in. They need to do the right thing,” she said.

Lyra (29) was shot dead while observing rioting in Londonderry last month. The so-called ‘New IRA’ claimed responsibility and offered its “full and sincere apologies” to family and friends of the reporter — something described as “mealy-mouthed” by Lyra’s partner Sara Canning.

Her death has prompted calls for Northern Ireland’s political leaders to come together and find a way to restore the power sharing institutions.

“There is a terrible irony in our Lyra’s murder, because she would have understood these people or tried to, and she would have tried to help them,” said Ms Corner.

“I suppose they robbed themselves of one person who would have wanted to hear their story and would want to help them move forward.”

Ms Corner said her sister called her on the day of her killing, just as she would have done on any other day.

But after Lyra told her she loved her, her sister asked if she was all right because “something just didn’t seem right”.

“I kind of guess, even though I know I spoke to her after that again, in a way that was her soul’s way of saying goodbye,” she said.

Nichola Corner. Pic Channel 4 News
Nichola Corner. Pic Channel 4 News

Failure isn’t an option... Lyra didn’t see labels.

Wearing a ‘Failure isn’t an option’ T-shirt in her interview, Ms Corner shared a journal entry from Lyra on the day of her death and how she had a plan of action up until April 17, 2020.

Ms Corner delivered a powerful address at the funeral in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast in front of Prime Minister Theresa May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland’s political leaders. She said there had to be change “one piece at a time” saying it was time to get to work.

“When I could feel myself faltering, I could just hear her say, ‘Come on Nic you can do it. Do it for me. Do it for me’.

“And when I looked down at her wee coffin, I just took a deep breath, focused myself again on the script, and just promised her that I will do my best.”

She urged leaders not to allow the journalist’s murder to be in vain, saying the past needed to be put to bed to allow for a future.

“Failure isn’t an option. We have to make Lyra’s legacy not just about the political landscape but about changing society,” she said.

“Lyra didn’t see labels, she didn’t see religion, she didn’t see what political party you were part of, because she had friends in them all.”

Earlier this week, Ms Canning revealed how she had challenged the Prime Minister to legalise same-sex marriage at Westminster.

The issue is one of the main bones of contention between the DUP and Sinn Fein preventing the restoration of Stormont, along with an Irish language act.

“Same sex marriage and an Irish language act are important,” Ms Canning had said.

“They are important don’t get me wrong but what’s more important is having a working government who are doing what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland.”

Speaking after Ms Corner’s interview, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said there was hope of a breakthrough in the current talks process in the wake of Lyra’s death.

He said the numbers existed in Stormont to pass same-sex marriage legislation, and accept that those opposed to it, including himself, were in the minority in Northern Ireland.

The South Belfast MLA said that had Stormont been up and running, same-sex marriage could have been in place up to 18 months ago.

“The irony is by keeping Stormont down some of those parties arguing for change are preventing that change happening.

“There are issues around culture and identity. Ultimately what I believe matters — regardless as to if you are unionist or nationalist or neither — are jobs, hospitals, schools, roads.

“And that’s what people want to see us working together on. We have to work together to make Northern Ireland work.”

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