Universal chorus of contempt for New IRA 'apology' over Lyra McKee killing
The New IRA's claim of responsibility for killing Lyra McKee has been blasted as shameful for implying that she contributed to her own death.
The SDLP, Ulster Unionists, DUP and Alliance yesterday denounced the paramilitary group's statement in which it apologised and said it would take more care in future to avoid civilian deaths.
Ms McKee was shot by a dissident republican gunman during rioting in the Creggan in Londonderry on Thursday night.
Her funeral will take place in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon.
In its statement the New IRA said: "In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.
"The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death."
It added: "We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this."
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the statement was "beneath contempt".
He said there had been a tidal wave of condemnation of the murder and the New IRA had been "rejected by the very community they claim to be defending".
He added: "They are shamed in the eyes of the world. Their 'full and sincere apologies' are of no use or comfort to anyone.
"And to try to imply that Lyra somehow contributed to her own death because she was 'standing beside enemy forces' shows their tenuous grip on reality.
"This gang needs to be rejected by all. They then need to be rounded up and put behind bars and out of business.
"There should be no pandering to them or their so-called political representatives. For the sake of society here they must be closed down permanently."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood branded the statement "an absolute disgrace".
He said: "Their so-called instruction to their 'volunteers' to 'take the utmost care' when engaging in violence is utterly sickening and devoid of any humanity.
"They must recognise the glaringly obvious fact they are not wanted by the people of the North. It is time to disband.
"The murder of Lyra McKee must not be in vain. Political leaders must come together to re-engage in a talks process to fill the vacuum that currently gives groups like this too much oxygen."
Alliance leader Naomi Long said: "Now the New IRA accept responsibility for her murder, while asking their members to be more careful when trying to murder people in future. To be clear, killing a police officer is every bit as wrong as killing a journalist.
"Both are there doing their job. Both of them have families who care about them. Neither deserve to be shot in cold blood. With every statement they merely expose themselves further."
Mrs Long said that "the only statement people want from the New IRA is one stating they are desisting, disarming and disbanding. Enough is enough".
DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said: "The apology by this republican faction is insulting and demonstrates their twisted thinking.
"Lyra's murder was wrong and cannot be justified by any terrorist. Had that gunman shot a young police officer, that would have been as equally obnoxious. Rather than issue qualified apologies it's time they left the stage.
"The shootings in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, just like the murders in recent years, achieved nothing but broken homes and empty seats at the dinner table."
Speaking in the House of Commons, Secretary of State Karen Bradley also denounced the statement.
She said: "To those responsible for this act of terrorism, we say we have heard your excuses and your hollow apologies. No one buys it. This was no accident. There is nothing that can justify this murderous act and you are being called out for what you really are."
Mrs Bradley said the "voices of peace" are "louder than those who peddle hate and division in a city with so much to offer".
She added: "There is definitely a sense on the ground that this is the end. People don't want to see this happen again.
"Those communities that have been oppressed by the terrorists, oppressed by the dissidents, made to live on estates in a way they don't want to, are standing up and saying: 'No, not in my name'.
"None of us can escape the symbolism of this, that it was Good Friday. It was a woman, a journalist, an innocent who was shot dead by terrorists. That is something that none of us can escape."
Labour's shadow Secretary of State Tony Lloyd said Ms McKee, "not the gunmen who mowed her down", truly represented Derry.
He said: "It is important we do remember the brightness of Lyra's life, and we said this was a life well lived. A young woman who most certainly was a child of the peace agreement.
"A young woman that lived her life in the way she chose to live it and campaigned for the things she believed in. And we should remember that bright spark, not simply to remember the way in which that spark left the world."