Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Lyra McKee: funeral takes place of journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland

McKee was killed by dissident Irish republicans last week

The killing of Lyra McKee can be a "doorway to a new beginning" for Northern Ireland, a priest at the journalist's funeral said on Wednesday.

McKee was shot and killed as she observed clashes between police and dissident Irish republicans in Londonderry last Thursday.

The joint Protestant and Catholic-led funeral service took place at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, where McKee grew up, and was attended by British and Irish politicians from across the political divide.

British prime minister Theresa May sat in the front row next to Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins.

Signing a book of condolence for the journalist on Friday, Mr Higgins said McKee was a “woman of talent and commitment, who was shot exercising her profession”.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, and foreign minister, Simon Coveney, also attended the service, alongside representatives from Northern Ireland’s main political parties.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster sat beside Sinn Fein's leader Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O'Neill.

“Many of us will be praying that Lyra’s death, in its own way, will not have been in vain and will contribute in some way to building peace here, Father Martin Magill, a friend of the McKee family, said. "Since Thursday night we have seen the coming together of many people in various places and the unifying of the community against violence.”

Fr Magill was given a standing ovation when he asked “why in God’s name” it took McKee's death to unite the political parties.

The reporter, 29, who spent much of her career covering the aftermath of the Northern Ireland conflict, known as the Troubles, was shot in the head during riots in the city of Derry last Thursday.

The New IRA claimed responsibility for the killing, saying she had been shot unintentionally while the splinter group were firing at police.

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Speaking at the beginning of the service, Dean Stephen Forde described the journalist as a "child of the Good Friday Agreement", which ended most of the violence of the Troubles.

"She was a primary school pupil in north Belfast when the agreement was signed," he said.

"She grew up to champion its hope for a society that was free from the prejudices of the past."

McKee’s partner, Sara Canning, said the ceremony was a “celebration of her life” and asked those attending to wear Harry Potter and Marvel superhero clothing in tribute to the journalist’s love of the works.

"We are all poorer for the loss of Lyra," Ms Canning said on Friday.

"Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act."

"Her legacy will live on in the life that she's left behind."

The New IRA offered “full and sincere apologies” for McKee’s death, which followed a number of letter bombs and a car bomb also claimed by the group.

The splinter group, believed to have been formed in 2012, seeks the reunification of the six counties of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

Updated: May 12, 2019 02:26 PM

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