Lyra McKee's killing ‘must not be in vain’, partner tells Derry rally

Main line of enquiry is that dissident group New IRA was responsible, PSNI says

Sara Canning, partner of Lyra McKee, speaking at a rally for the journalist who  was killed in what the PSNI is  treating as a terrorist incident in Derry on Thursday night. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Sara Canning, partner of Lyra McKee, speaking at a rally for the journalist who was killed in what the PSNI is treating as a terrorist incident in Derry on Thursday night. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Journalist Lyra McKee was full of hope – about her new home in Derry, about her love for her partner Sara, and about the future.

“Here’s to better times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets once and for all,” she wrote on her Twitter feed in recent months.

On Thursday night, one of those bullets killed Lyra McKee. The 29-year-old journalist was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of the city; she died shortly afterwards.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has begun a murder inquiry, and said it is being treated as a terrorist incident.

Her partner, Sara Canning, choked back tears as she told a rally in Creggan that Ms McKee’s death “must not be in vain”.

“Our hopes and dreams, her amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act,” she said.

“This cannot stand. Her legacy will live on in the light that she’s left behind.”

Police cordons were lifted late yesterday, and people began leaving flowers at the scene.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the main line of enquiry is that the dissident republican grouping the New IRA was responsible. The same group were also blamed for the car bomb which exploded outside the city’s courthouse in January.

Search operation

He said police had mounted a search operation in Derry before the murder on Thursday evening. “We believed that violent dissident republicans were planning attacks in this city and we were looking for munitions and firearms that we believe may be about to be used across the Easter weekend,” he said.

“We were in Creggan carrying out a search operation and a public-order situation developed in Fanad Drive.

“This public-order situation saw over 50 petrol bombs thrown at police, two cars hijacked and set on fire and then, unfortunately, at 11 o’clock last night a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots towards police.” Ms McKee was standing near a police vehicle and was fatally wounded.

Ms McKee was taken to Altnagelvin hospital and died shortly afterwards. According to the PSNI she was not working as a journalist when she was shot.

The shots were fired with a handgun and police did not return fire. Closed-circuit television footage shows what appears to be a masked man firing a number of shots and another man picking up bullet casings from the ground.

A 30-year-old man has been charged with a number of offences including disorderly behaviour and throwing a firework.

Ms McKee, who was originally from Belfast, had moved to Derry to be with her partner, Ms Canning. An editor with California-based news site Mediagazer, she was named one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 in media in 2016. She had signed a publishing deal with Faber & Faber and her book The Lost Boys was due for publication in 2020.

She tweeted a picture of the disturbances shortly before she was killed, with the caption: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”

On Friday night several thousand people gathered at rallies in Creggan and in the centre of Derry to show their solidarity with Ms McKee and her friends and family.

Among them was the DUP leader Arlene Foster, who was applauded when she told the crowd that this was her first visit to Creggan. “I came today to stand in solidarity with all of the people who are here today. I want to say, your pain is my pain.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Catholic or a Protestant, or whether you identify as Irish or British, when people come out with guns to shoot people from their own community then we have to say enough is enough.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald addressed those present while holding a rainbow-striped flag “for Lyra”, she said.

“I say to those who perpetrated this gross act of violence against the people of Derry and the people of Ireland – and I say this as a republican who will proudly stand on Easter Sunday and celebrate our tradition – I say to those people that your time is over, that your time is up.”