Foster says Lyra McKee’s death was not caused by political vacuum

Priest sparks applause with comment on political action

The death of Lyra McKee should mark a new beginning for Northern Ireland, Father Martin Magill told mourners at the funeral of the young journalist in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. Video: Reuters / BBC pool

 

DUP leader Arlene Foster has denied Lyra McKee’s death was caused by a political vacuum.

There was a standing ovation at the funeral service of the 29-year-old journalist on Wednesday when Fr Martin Magill urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to reform the power-sharing government.

Ms McKee was shot dead by members of the New IRA as she was covering a disturbance in the Creggan area of Derry last Thursday.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Ms Foster said the service had been “very moving in so many ways.”

Asked if she felt the violence was caused because people were frustrated there was no sitting Northern Ireland Assembly, she responded “I don’t accept that the violence of Lyra’s death was caused by a political vacuum.

“That’s not to say that we (politicians) don’t bear responsibility because there is no Assembly.”

Fr Magill’s sermon had been “very powerful and very clear about what people want to see happening - power sharing and devolution.

“That’s why it’s important that we get back to the Assembly. To get it up and running again.”

Ms Foster said she wanted to see a talks process for a specified time, which could be six months or nine months.

Mary Lou McDonald also said she wanted to restore the powersharing administration at Stormont.

Ms Mc Donald said that if there was the political will the issues that led to the fall of the Stormont Assembly could be “sorted out in one hour.”

Politicians need to “roll up their sleeves and get cracking” she told RTÉ’s Today With Miriam O’Callaghan show on Thursday.

“People want power sharing. This is not an Orange/Green dynamic, people want equality.”

Ms McDonald said she welcomed anything that “moved the dial” towards equality and inclusion. “These are issues that need to be resolved.”

The challenge “is, was and remains to talk and to engage”, but if the question was Sinn Féin going to capitulate to people who would hold back progress, “then the answer is no, we will not capitulate on that,” she said.

After the funeral Ms Foster spoke separately to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley about the potential value of holding fresh talks aimed at reinstating devolution.

Ms McDonald and Ms Foster were among politicians and dignitaries from both sides of the Border as well as from Britain at the ecumenical funeral service.

The attendance included President Michael D Higgins; Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Co Down, Lord Lieut Fionnuala Cooke; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, British prime minister Theresa May, Ms Bradley, Labour leader Brendan Howlin and British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.