Police attacked at Derry republican march on anniversary of Lyra McKee’s death

Event goes ahead despite condemnation from murdered journalist’s family

A crowd at a dissident republican parade in Northern Ireland has attacked police with petrol bombs after a paramilitary-style march in Derry, prompting widespread condemnation.

The disturbances on Monday came on the third anniversary of the murder of the journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot by the New IRA in 2019.

Youths hurled petrol bombs at police vehicles at the entrance to the city cemetery after a parade to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Police made several arrests.

Five men – aged 29, 38, 40, 50 and 54 years – were arrested under the Terrorism Act. A sixth man, aged 40, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour.

About 1,000 people watched the parade on Monday afternoon, organised by the group Saoradh, which is accused of having links with the New IRA.

About 24 men and women in paramilitary clothing had marched in the procession in defiance of a Parades Commission ruling that no paramilitary style clothing be worn.

Colum Eastwood, the Social Democratic and Labour party leader, and MP for the area, condemned the scenes. “Young people in our city are being manipulated into carrying out violent attacks against police officers by people who are intent on dragging this city and its people backwards,” he said.“We won’t let them win.”

Extremists sought to stoke division, fear and resentment, said Mr Eastwood. “They need to understand that those days are long gone and they aren’t coming back. The people of Derry want to live in peace with their neighbours. We won’t have that peace threatened by anyone, let alone cowards that send kids to throw petrol bombs.”

The bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, told the BBC: “Young people need inspiration, not merchants of despair.”

‘Bad taste’

Ms McKee’s family said Saoradh’s decision to march on the anniversary of the journalist’s murder was in bad taste and appealed to the public for fresh information about her killing.

Ms McKee was shot while observing a riot in Derry on 18 April 2019. The New IRA admitted responsibility soon after the shooting and apologised, saying its gunman had been aiming at police. The 29-year-old had been one of Northern Ireland’s most promising young journalists.

Supporters on Monday unveiled a banner in her memory at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast and in Derry the National Union of Journalists held a vigil in Guildhall Square.

Ms McKee's sister, Nichola Corner, urged anyone with information to come forward and said Derry's streets would be unsafe until the killer was caught. "The person who pulled the trigger of the gun that led to her death still walks these streets, and while they walk these streets, these streets will not be safe for the people of this city," she said." It's never too late ? I beg you to help us achieve justice for Lyra".

Ms McKee’s partner Sara Canning added: “We’re here to honour someone we loved, and they’re there to honour people who died 106 years ago. That’s my personal take on it and why I think it’s in such bad taste.”

Murder charges

The Police Service of Northern Ireland appealed for fresh information. Nine people have been charged in relation to the shooting, six of them with public order offences and three with murder. There have been no convictions.

The vigils also remembered Martin O’Hagan, a Northern Ireland journalist murdered by a loyalist paramilitary group in 2001, and Pierre Zakrzewski, a cameraman from Dublin recently killed in Ukraine.

The vigils came after a warning from another small republican group. Oglaigh na hEireann, which declared a ceasefire in 2018, on Sunday threatened retaliation if the loyalist campaign against the Northern Ireland protocol escalated. – Guardian

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