Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: There's only one message that our politicians need to hear as talks begin to break the deadlock - #BeLikeLyra

Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee

Editor's Viewpoint

At the end of an emotional week people remain shocked. The tragedy of Lyra McKee's death and the challenge to politicians was summarised powerfully by Father Martin Magill at her funeral.

He asked most pointedly: "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?"

Why indeed? There is a tangible sense that people do not want Lyra's death to be in vain, but to be imbued with meaning and significance.

That is understandable. She was an outstanding young woman whose life embodied a rare spirit of generosity, outreach and empathy, and with an almost insatiable journalistic curiosity.

We have been here before in wanting to extrapolate some sense from senseless killings.

We were traumatised by the deaths of the Maguire children that led to the Peace People, by Enniskillen, the deaths of the Quinn children, and atrocities elsewhere. We thought such carnage was too awful to be repeated, but the atrocities continued. Against this background politicians have been challenged to achieve something.

They face big challenges, but a political vacuum is more easily filled by dissident murderers of the kind who killed an innocent young woman in Derry. Had a police officer been murdered that night would our collective response have been the same? Is it still a matter of "them" and "us'?

We need to be honest, and if the talks are to go anywhere, then both main parties need to have urgent conversations with themselves. Neither can expect the other to trust its bona fides if it has not carried out this internal dialogue.

If these talks are to succeed there must be give on all sides. The tone of public discourse needs to change too. It was depressing to find that within only hours of Lyra's funeral we were back to the old political points-scoring and rancour.

A popular hashtag this week, picking up Lyra's natural instinct for positivity, was #BeLikeLyra. As politicians set out for the talks, they could do worse than adopt this as a motto. As least they'd make a start by agreeing on something.

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