Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Lyra McKee's death could be a key that unlocks solution to terrorism

Lyra with her mother Joan
Lyra with her mother Joan

Editor's Viewpoint

Lyra McKee should not have died at the hands of a New IRA gunman in Londonderry eight weeks ago. Implicit in the ceasefires of the Nineties and the subsequent signing of the Good Friday Agreement was the promise that terrorism on the streets of Northern Ireland was over.

Lyra was a child of the ceasefire generation. She was supposed to inherit the peace that followed 30 years of near civil war. Northern Ireland had changed immensely as she grew up even if dissident republicans continued their nihilistic campaign, one with no hope of success and no outcome except more sorrow.

In a way Lyra was an innocent abroad when she went to film the riot in the Creggan where she lost her life. But as her sister Nichola says in her moving interview in this newspaper today, such was the recklessness of the gunman's actions that it could have been anyone's sister, even his own, who was hit by his bullet.

Where Lyra's death was different from the 3,000-plus who died before her is that it was virtually played out on camera and came as a brutal reminder of hideous times past.

Her funeral brought Prime Ministers and a President to St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast as well as the leaders of the political parties here who had to shoulder a stinging rebuke from Fr Martin Magill over their abrogation of their duty to form a government.

We know a lot about Lyra, the young girl who suffered some torment in earlier days for her sexuality, but who found a love of writing and an inquisitiveness that would not be sated and drove her on to be an investigative journalist.

But it is as a needless victim of a needless and ignominious terror campaign that she should be remembered, just like the 3,000-plus other victims.

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And she was so nearly joined in that litany of the fallen by a police officer recently who had a booby-trap bomb attached to his car at Shandon Park Golf Club in Belfast.

Her family are disconcerted by the emphasis placed on her sexuality in subsequent stories. That is part of what she was, but it was irrelevant to her death and should not be used as a rallying point for LGBT equality.

Instead, her death should make society redouble its efforts to bring some comfort, possibly even justice, to those who have been bereaved by terrorism. All the platitudes in the world do not equal the simple forwarding of information to the PSNI to enable it to apprehend and bring to court those responsible for the deaths of so many.

Lyra's death has touched many, but her sister's account of the night she died will resonate with thousands of other bereaved families - the sheer disbelief that a loved one had died, the screams from an agonised soul, the desperate drive to the hospital, and even then the unwillingness to believe that a loved one would never be coming back.

Nichola says her mother, to whom Lyra was especially close, asked her recently if the pain will ever go away and she had to reply that she did not think that would happen.

Those words are sentiments expressed by so many so often, and yet they continue to suffer. There is no time limit, no statute of limitations on sorrow and no solace in sight.

We need only look at the street riots, the joyriding, the threats, to know the terrorists are keen to reclaim the ground lost by their vile act.

But Lyra's death touched a raw nerve in the wider community. Could it be the key which unlocks a solution to terrorism here and delivers the promise she never really received?

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph