The Irish Times view on the death of Lyra McKee

Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald must rise above narrow politics and seize the moment

Lyra McKee was shot dead riots in the Creggan area of Derry, in what police are treating as a terrorist incident. Photograph: Jess LOWE/AFP/Getty images

Lyra McKee was shot dead riots in the Creggan area of Derry, in what police are treating as a terrorist incident. Photograph: Jess LOWE/AFP/Getty images

 

The resonance with the past is unmistakeable and all the more horrifying as a result. Violence on the streets of Derry, a gun fired recklessly and a life cut short. A life that personified the generation that was supposed to never know the violence of the Troubles extinguished on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Belfast Agreement. A voice now silent that should have been part of the future.

Lyra McKee was not the intended victim of the bullet that took her life. In so far as there was any specific objective, it was to kill or injure a member of the police service. But there was another target too: the ideal of a better Northern Ireland where two communities can build the shared future sought by the overwhelming majority. That is the vision rejected by a small minority who, in pursuit of a warped republicanism and brazen criminality, fire shots into crowds and leave car bombs on streets. The grim inevitability is that life will be lost.

The North’s political parties are abrogating their responsibility to serve the common good and wider community in favour of their own political interests

That McKee’s voice struck a chord with so many within a relatively short career as a writer and a journalist and that she had so much more to say underlines the futility of such violence. Rightly, those who spoke out in response to her death echoed common themes – anger, revulsion and, most of all, the rejection of this glimpse of the past. Yet the sometimes detached debate that has rumbled on in recent months over the risk – or otherwise – of renewed violence, in the event of a hard border after Brexit, seemed much more real. There is nothing theoretical about the death of a 29-year-old woman.

Responsibility for McKee’s death rests squarely with whoever pulled the trigger, those who direct or influence them and their supporters. But political stasis has created a vacuum that serves their purposes. The North’s main political parties are abrogating their responsibility to serve the common good and the wider community in favour of their own perceived political interests. The absence of functioning institutions has stalled political progress, including an appropriate response to the deprivation and hopelessness that is exploited by dissidents.

No one doubts the sincerity of the politicians who condemned McKee’s murder or the solidarity shown by Arlene Foster, Mary Lou McDonald and others. But much more is needed of them. In darker times, their predecessors overcame apparently insurmountable differences in pursuit of a shared future. That future is not secure and primary responsibility to deliver it rests with the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Féin. They must rise above narrow politics and seize the moment.

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