Archbishop Eamon Martin calls for politicians to resume talks in NI
Vigil held in Derry to coincide with funeral of Lyra McKee in belfast
Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke at a gathering in Derry on Wednesday to coincide with the funeral of Lyra McKee. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin
Archbishop Martin was among several hundred people who gathered in Derry’s Guildhall Square at 1pm to mark the moment Ms McKee’s funeral was beginning in Belfast.
The 29-year-old journalist was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry on Thursday night, and died shortly afterwards. The dissident republican group the New IRA has said it carried out the shooting.
“I think we do need leadership now,” said Archbishop Martin, “and we do need compromise.”
“I think there has been a vacuum in recent months, and in fact if you go back it’s two years now since we’ve had any kind of meaningful Assembly or government in this part of the world, and if you create a gap like that inevitably people are going to move in and try to fill it with their own hatred, with their own violence.”
He said he hoped to send a message to political leaders that they have support.
“Sometimes you hear people saying that maybe after the council elections we’ll sit down, or maybe after Brexit is sorted we’ll sit down,” he said.
“I think the people of Derry and the people all over this island are saying you have our support, to sit down now. If that is an outcome of Lyra’s death then maybe something good can come of this awful situation.”
Archbishop Martin said he and other church leaders would seek to meet politicians in the next few weeks.
“I think the message we’ll be bringing is that they do have support to take maybe some courageous and sometimes compromising steps.”
As the Guildhall clock edged towards 1 o’clock, people in the square fell silent in memory of Ms McKee. The minute’s silence was followed by a round of applause.
Archbishop Martin, who is from Derry, said he felt it was important to be present in the city where Ms McKee had been murdered on the day of her funeral.
“I think in the last few days there’s been this real, fervent cry from the heart of Derry. Not in our name. Give peace a chance.”
His message was echoed by many of those present, including the Reverend David Latimer, of Derry First Presbyterian church.
“Lyra said ‘it will get better’, and I think she’s right,” he said.
“It is up to all of us to introduce change into the way we act, think and behave.
“In her memory, we’ve got to reach out to everyone and see peace as more important than anything else.”
Journalist and NUJ member Paul Gosling said he felt it was important to attend in solidarity with Ms McKee.
“I am upset, I feel upset because a journalist has been killed, a journalist who is the same age as my daughters and who was killed five minutes walk from where I live.
“It feels like a turning back of a peace process which never properly embedded,” he said.
Jean Hegarty, whose brother Kevin McElhinney was among those killed in Derry on Bloody Sunday, said she was hopefully this would be the last death of the Troubles.
“It should really be the last,” she said.
“I feel something has changed. I don’t think they [dissident republicans] are going to disappear, but I do feel that attitudes in Derry have changed, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Bernard and Carmel Murray-Gates, who are originally from Northern Ireland but now live in London, carried a rainbow-coloured placard reading “imagine all the people living life in peace”.
“We left in the early 80s,” said Mr Murray-Gates. “It was a bad time, and when you see something like this it seems like such a backward step.
“She [Lyra] seemed like such a lovely person. Peace and inclusivity is what it should be all about now.”
Colette O’Connor, whose father Sammy Devenney was killed 50 years ago and was one of the first to lost his life during the Troubles, said she felt it was important to show solidarity with the family of Ms McKee.
“I came because I just felt I had to,” she said. “When I heard the news, I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it was true. She came across as a wee girl with so much to give.”