A mourner wearing a Gryffindor scarf holds an order of service as she arrives for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland April 24, 2019. Brian Lawless/Pool via REUTERS
BELFAST (Reuters) – The leaders of Britain and Ireland joined hundreds of mourners on Wednesday at the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee whose killing by an Irish nationalist militant gunman has sparked outrage in the province.
The New IRA group, which opposes Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, admitted one of its members shot 29-year-old McKee dead in Londonderry on Thursday when they opened fire on police officers during a riot McKee was watching.
The killing, which followed a large car bomb in Londonderry in January that police also blamed on the New IRA, has raised fears that small marginalized militant groups are exploiting a two-year political vacuum in the province and tensions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
In a statement issued ahead of the funeral, McKee’s family described the writer and lesbian and gay rights activist as a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in justice, inclusivity and truth, and would not wish ill on anyone.
“We would ask that Lyra’s life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us all as we face this tragedy together. Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness,” they said.
Northern Ireland’s political parties, which are broadly split between Irish nationalists aspiring to unite the British region with Ireland and unionists who want it to remain British, have called for calm in a rare joint statement condemning the murder.
The party leaders joined British Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Irish President Michael D. Higgins and the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, at the funeral in McKee’s native Belfast.
Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin; editing by Kate Holton