Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Lyra's murderers will never triumph

Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee

Editor's Viewpoint

We hoped we had seen the last of these atrocities among us. Instead, Lyra McKee's name now joins the long list of those whose lives were ended by gunmen who hadn't a fraction of the humanity they extinguished.

Lyra was 29 years old and, in the cruellest of ironies, she was shot dead at the very point she was making great strides in her professional life and had found happiness in her personal life.

Those who die are often lauded, more so those who die young, but this Belfast woman really was one of the brightest journalistic talents of her generation.

As well as her outstanding investigative journalism into subjects including the murder of Rev Robert Bradford MP and the devastating toll of suicide on the community in Northern Ireland post-ceasefires, she had also signed a two-book deal with Faber & Faber, one of Britain's foremost publishers.

Lyra was a regular contributor to this newspaper, writing on a diverse range of topics from political and social analysis to the acutely personal. She was an immensely gifted writer, intuitive and empathetic, qualities which stemmed from her innate kind and loving nature.

In spite of her tender years, Lyra was a reporter of the old school. She was always curious and she was never the sort who would sit behind a computer screen when there was a scene she ought to be at or someone she needed to speak to in person. It will be of little consolation to her heartbroken family but she died doing a job she loved and was born to do.

Anyone who so much as glanced at the huge outpouring of grief and anger at her murder cannot fail to have been touched by the wide range of her friends and contacts across all sections of the community.

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Lyra was a person completely without side. As a journalist, she was defined by a natural curiosity about the world around her and also by the eloquence of her writing. She wanted to engage with everybody and made close friends with people regardless of their background.

In many ways Lyra was a child of the peace in Northern Ireland, born just four years before the ceasefires and eight years before the Good Friday Agreement. How wretched it is that she should die by a bullet from a gun fired by a dissident republican in 2019. Twenty-one years after that momentous Easter week, little did we think another terror outrage would dominate our headlines.

Lyra's murder has unified the leaders of all the local political parties in condemnation. In many ways this united front is symbolic of the new politics that it was hoped the 1998 Agreement would usher in.

However, sadly the past months have seen a number of pronouncements from republicans that are reminiscent of what we refer to as the Troubles. There has been a regrettable militancy about some of the language - and it is that sort of rhetoric which can create the conditions in which dissidents thrive and lead to murderous acts.

Language and leadership are intimately interwoven, as the history of this place shows, and we have all too often experienced the toxic fallout from reckless political opportunism.

The statement from Saoradh is frankly disgusting. Attempting to lay the blame for Lyra's murder on the PSNI is nauseating in its hypocrisy. As we have said many times before, dissident micro-groups offer nothing but nihilism.

Until late on Thursday night, Lyra McKee was the future of Northern Ireland. She had a glittering career ahead of her, writing about news events. Now, in the most tragic way possible, she has made the news all over the world, her life snuffed out in a manner we thought we had seen the back of.

We make no excuses for saying that we all have a stark choice - the same one we have always had. Say no to violence. Say no to sectarianism. Work tirelessly for peace.

And never forget our peace is way more fragile than we think.

Start by rejecting the political representatives of the people who killed Lyra McKee when they present themselves to the electorate next month.

Like thousands of other deaths in Northern Ireland, Lyra's was utterly pointless. You have a chance to make it count. Take it.

Belfast Telegraph


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