The senior PSNI detective now leading the investigation into the murder of Lyra McKee has added his voice to those calling on the Creggan community in Derry to help police identify her killer.
Det Supt Jason Murphy said CCTV footage released to the media shows the slain journalist in the crowd and the suspected gunman at the corner. An individual is also shown picking up something from the ground at the same location.
“Lyra’s death is senseless and appalling beyond belief. It represents the tragic loss of promise and the loss of potential, however it should not be the loss of hope. We know that the people of Creggan do not support what happened and they stand with us today in outrage and disgust at the mayhem that took place on their streets last night,” said Det Supt Murphy.
“We are releasing this to encourage anyone with information to make contact with us,” he added.
Politicians on both sides of the Border have condemned the killing of the 29-year-old journalist, who died after being shot during riots in Derry on Thursday night.
McKee, an author and journalist from Belfast, died in Altnagelvin hospital after being taken from the scene of the disturbances in the Creggan area by police. McKee had tweeted a picture of the scene shortly before she was killed, with the caption: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”
Speaking at a press conference in Derry on Friday morning, the PSNI's assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton said police had mounted a search operation in Derry on Thursday evening.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is treating the killing as a "terrorist incident". Police said the New IRA is most likely responsible.
The dissident republican grouping was also believed to have been responsible for a car bomb which exploded outside the courthouse in Derry in January.
“I said in January,” said Mr Hamilton, “the threat level in Northern Ireland has been severe for a number of years . . . It is still severe.”
Mr Hamilton appealed for calm over the Easter weekend. He also asked people to be sensitive and not share videos of the shooting on social media. He asked that videos be shared with the police to help the investigation.
McAleese speaks out
Former president Mary McAleese has said McKee came to her attention for eloquent advocacy on behalf of equality and rights for the LGBTI community.
Mrs McAleese said the slain journalist’s attempts to educate the churches about the damage their teachings on homosexuality did to individuals, including Lyra herself, were commendable. Moreover, her beautifully communicated sadness at the suicides provoked by homophobia and the Troubles continues to resonate.
Mrs McAleese said McKee lived close to where she herself grew up, on what is known as the Murder Mile because of number of sectarian killings there. While Mrs McAleese “lived through many of them”, McKee – as a child of the Belfast Agreement – seemed destined to live in better times but was surrounded by people who had been hurt by those days and the young journalist felt their pain deeply.
The former president said McKee was murdered by people who have never been reconciled to the belief that politics work.
“They are the remnants, dying embers of an embedded culture of paramilitarism which they are trying to oxygenate once again. We have to ensure they fail in that endeavour. They had hoped to kill a police officer and thus entice Loyalist paramilitaries back into that zero sum world of tit-for-tat murders. We have to hope that we do not go back to those days. We can avoid their embers fanning to a flame by ensuring that those who support them know they are yesterday’s men, those who know anything about them becoming whistleblowers, by acknowledging that the PSNI is now a necessary and trusted community police force,” she said.
Mrs McAleese said it is vital that McKee’s voice is not silenced by her murder and that politicians and churchmen who have condemned the perpetrators need to do what it takes to make Northern Ireland a place of safety for Catholics and Protestants, gay and straight.
“That is how we can truly and truthfully honour her legacy and keep her voice alive.”
Meanwhile, Junior McDaid House in Derry – which is linked to dissident republican political party Saoradh – said an annual Easter Monday commemoration had been cancelled. In a statement, Saoradh said “British Crown forces” were responsible for Thursday night’s rioting.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the murder was also a callous and brutal attack on the peace process, the people of Derry and the freedom of the press.
Responding to the statement from Saoradh, he said: “It was a statement that added offence, gross offence, to the unlawful killing . . . There can be no justification or such an act.”
‘Full of sadness’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the fatal shooting of journalist and writer Lyra McKee in Derry . . . We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney spoke to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley and the two will stay in contact over the weekend. Mr Coveney also received a briefing from the PSMI chief constable.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was "a senseless act . . . Those who brought guns on to our streets in the '70s, '80s and '90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019."
She added: “No one wants to go back.”
Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said it was a “senseless loss of life. I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents. The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.”
British prime minister Theresa May said the killing was “shocking and truly senseless”.
Former US president Bill Clinton tweeted that he was "heartbroken by the murder of Lyra McKee and the violence in Derry". Mr Clinton said the challenges in Northern Ireland today "are real - but we cannot let go of the last 21 years of hard-won peace and progress. This tragedy is a reminder of how much everyone has to lose if we do."
The National Union of Journalists condemned the “indiscriminate” killing. Assistant general secretary Séamus Dooley said McKee was a “journalist of courage, style and integrity. She was a woman of great commitment and passion.”