Lyra McKee funeral: Thousands mourn New IRA murder victim

Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered while observing clashes between police and New IRA dissidents in Londonderry

Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered while observing clashes between police and New IRA dissidents in Londonderry

Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered while observing clashes between police and New IRA dissidents in Londonderry

Thousands of mourners across different communities and political groups of Northern Ireland joined together today for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee as a priest told them it should mark a new beginning for the country.

Miss McKee, 29, was killed by indiscriminate fire as she observed clashes April 18 between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry. 

Priest Father Martin Magill said her death should be a ‘doorway to a new beginning’ for Northern Ireland and the dissident republican gunmen who killed her should lay down their arms, adding: ‘I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee, journalist and writer, as a powerful example of ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.’

Dean Stephen Forde said Miss McKee ‘broke down barriers and reached across boundaries’, adding: ‘This was her hallmark in life, this is her legacy in death.’ 

After fellow journalists formed a guard of honour for the service in Belfast, he urged politicians at Northern Ireland’s suspended powersharing administration to work together to produce a better life for young people.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Irish premier Leo Varadkar, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney were among those attending.

Mrs May spoke with Miss McKee’s partner Sara Canning, 35, and the rest of her family. Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn were absent from the regular Wednesday Prime Minister’s Questions to attend the funeral.

The congregation was led by Miss Canning, her mother Joan McKee, 68, brothers Gary and David and sisters Joan, Nichola and Mary. Her funeral was cross-community and mourners spanned both sides of the Irish border. 

Miss McKee's partner Sara Canning, 35, is pictured at the service of thanksgiving for the life of the 29-year-old journalist

Miss McKee's partner Sara Canning, 35, is pictured at the service of thanksgiving for the life of the 29-year-old journalist

Miss McKee’s partner Sara Canning, 35, is pictured at the service of thanksgiving for the life of the 29-year-old journalist

The congregation arrive for the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee in the surroundings of St Anne's Cathedral today

The congregation arrive for the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee in the surroundings of St Anne's Cathedral today

The congregation arrive for the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee in the surroundings of St Anne’s Cathedral today

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Miss McKee's partner Sara Canning (centre, left) at the funeral service today

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Miss McKee's partner Sara Canning (centre, left) at the funeral service today

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Miss McKee’s partner Sara Canning (centre, left) at the funeral service today

The hearse carrying the body of murdered journalist Miss McKee arrives at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

The hearse carrying the body of murdered journalist Miss McKee arrives at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

The hearse carrying the body of murdered journalist Miss McKee arrives at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

(From left) Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish President Michael D Higgins today

(From left) Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish President Michael D Higgins today

(From left) Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish President Michael D Higgins today

Pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Miss McKee at her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

Pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Miss McKee at her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

Pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Miss McKee at her funeral at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald talk before the funeral service this afternoon

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald talk before the funeral service this afternoon

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald talk before the funeral service this afternoon

(From left) DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein's leader Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O'Neill this afternoon

(From left) DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein's leader Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O'Neill this afternoon

(From left) DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein’s leader Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill this afternoon

Catholic priest Fr Magill said: ‘I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.’

The service of thanksgiving was held in the Church of Ireland’s St Anne’s Cathedral, a short distance from her north Belfast home.

Her funeral cortege arrived outside St Anne’s Cathedral after passing Belfast’s nearby Kremlin bar, a gay nightclub, where a number of people with rainbow flags were present.

The crowd applauded as the cortege arrived at the cathedral, with a white and pink floral heart carried in the hearse. There was more applause from those outside the cathedral as Miss McKee’s coffin was carried inside.

In introductory comments, Dean Forde said she was a child of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which largely ended decades of violence and talked of the hopes for an end to the prejudices of the past and the possibilities of a new future.

As the funeral was being held, a number of journalists posted tributes on social media with the hashtag #WeStandWithLyra.

BBC presenter Andrea Catherwood tweeted: ‘Cameras down in Doha to remember fellow journalist #LyraMcKee senselessly murdered in Derry. Her values of inclusion, love and equality are N Ireland’s future. #WestandwithLyra’.

A group of three grieving friends embrace outside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast before the service this afternoon

A group of three grieving friends embrace outside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast before the service this afternoon

A group of three grieving friends embrace outside St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast before the service this afternoon

Applause is heard from hundreds of people outside the cathedral as Miss McKee's coffin is carried inside this afternoon

Applause is heard from hundreds of people outside the cathedral as Miss McKee's coffin is carried inside this afternoon

Applause is heard from hundreds of people outside the cathedral as Miss McKee’s coffin is carried inside this afternoon

The service today is attended by politicians from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Theresa May

The service today is attended by politicians from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Theresa May

The service today is attended by politicians from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Theresa May

Political leaders including Labour's Jeremy Corbyn are among those at the service in Belfast's St Annes Cathedral today

Political leaders including Labour's Jeremy Corbyn are among those at the service in Belfast's St Annes Cathedral today

Political leaders including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn are among those at the service in Belfast’s St Annes Cathedral today

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister Theresa May and President Michael D Higgins stand at the funeral service today

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister Theresa May and President Michael D Higgins stand at the funeral service today

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister Theresa May and President Michael D Higgins stand at the funeral service today

Irish President Michael D Higgins is seen before the funeral service for murdered journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

Irish President Michael D Higgins is seen before the funeral service for murdered journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

Irish President Michael D Higgins is seen before the funeral service for murdered journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

Other images showed journalists paying their respects in newsrooms for outlets including Channel 4 News and the BBC.

And the National Union of Journalists tweeted an image from a vigil being held for Miss McKee at St Bride’s Church, dubbed the ‘journalists’ church’, in Fleet Street, London.

Inside the church, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was seen talking to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and later with Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster. The cathedral was packed with around 600 mourners.

Fr Magill said: ‘To those who had any part in her murder, I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee, journalist and writer, as a powerful example of ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.

‘I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends.’

Since the killing many have condemned the culture of violence and coercive control practised by dissidents, the clergyman said.

‘We need to send a very different message and so I appeal to those who have information about Lyra’s murder but who haven’t yet come forward to do so now.

Mr Corbyn reads the order of service as he attends the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee at St Anne's Cathedral today

Mr Corbyn reads the order of service as he attends the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee at St Anne's Cathedral today

Mr Corbyn reads the order of service as he attends the funeral service of journalist Miss McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral today

President Michael D Higgins smiles as Prime Minister Theresa May talks to her before the funeral service in Belfast today

President Michael D Higgins smiles as Prime Minister Theresa May talks to her before the funeral service in Belfast today

President Michael D Higgins smiles as Prime Minister Theresa May talks to her before the funeral service in Belfast today

(From left) Michelle O'Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein, Labour MP Tony Lloyd and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today

(From left) Michelle O'Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein, Labour MP Tony Lloyd and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today

(From left) Michelle O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein, Labour MP Tony Lloyd and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein and Michelle O'Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein and Michelle O'Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein and Michelle O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein

‘If you want to see an end to these brutal rules, and see a new society built on justice and fairness, on hope and not fear, then you can help build that society by letting the police know what you know.’

He called on political leaders to break the Stormont negotiations impasse. 

‘I pray that Lyra’s murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive in previous assemblies and to begin anew.’

Miss McKee’s friend Stephen Lusty said her ‘starlight’ filled the cathedral and he praised her as smart, kind and compassionate. He said she was fearless and naive in her early days.

She supported him through dark times, when he was scared, lonely and isolated. He said she often gave half her dinner money to a homeless person she had come across, making her late when she was due to meet him.

She was a ‘new age punk’, the embodiment of the Troubles-era band Stiff Little Fingers’ Alternative Ulster hit. ‘She embodied the future of finding commonality, enjoying difference in others.’

He said 40 years later her loss showed what it took to live in an Alternative Ulster. They had been robbed of a talent destined to become a stateswoman, with only holes left behind. Her friend said Miss McKee’s lasting legacy should be peace. 

Mourners in Harry Potter scarves arrived at her funeral service, which is being attended by politicians, this afternoon

Mourners in Harry Potter scarves arrived at her funeral service, which is being attended by politicians, this afternoon

Mourners in Harry Potter scarves arrived at her funeral service, which is being attended by politicians, this afternoon

Mourners - one wearing a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf - listen to the funeral service of murdered journalist Miss McKee today

Mourners - one wearing a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf - listen to the funeral service of murdered journalist Miss McKee today

Mourners – one wearing a Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf – listen to the funeral service of murdered journalist Miss McKee today

Many in the region have been left devastated by the death of the popular journalist in Londonderry on April 18.

Many in the region have been left devastated by the death of the popular journalist in Londonderry on April 18.

Many in the region have been left devastated by the death of the popular journalist in Londonderry on April 18.

Many in the region have been left devastated by the death of the popular journalist in Londonderry on April 18.

Many in the region have been left devastated by the death of the popular journalist in Londonderry on April 18

Mourners applaud as the coffin is brought into St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast for the funeral service this afternoon

Mourners applaud as the coffin is brought into St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast for the funeral service this afternoon

Mourners applaud as the coffin is brought into St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast for the funeral service this afternoon

Mourners were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comic merchandise in tribute to the journalist's love of both works

Mourners were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comic merchandise in tribute to the journalist's love of both works

Mourners were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comic merchandise in tribute to the journalist’s love of both works

A mourner wearing a Harry Potter scarf holds the order of service for the funeral of journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

A mourner wearing a Harry Potter scarf holds the order of service for the funeral of journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

A mourner wearing a Harry Potter scarf holds the order of service for the funeral of journalist Miss McKee in Belfast today

‘We have two choices, we can look into the holes and wait forever… or we can fill those holes today. Today we grieve but tomorrow let us fill that hole by adopting Lyra’s future and vision.’

Elisha McCallion, MP for Foyle and Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, tweeted: ‘With a heavy heart I travel to the funeral of Lyra McKee this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who knew and loved her. Msg to the worlds media ‘We shall over come’.’

A tribute to Miss McKee from her mother Joan, brothers Gary and David, and sisters Joan Hunter, Nichola Corner and Mary Crossan said: ‘On Thursday April 18, our beautiful Lyra was taken from us.

‘A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, a partner, a niece, a cousin, and above all, a best friend and confidante to so many of us. A friend to all, a gentle innocent soul who wouldn’t wish ill on anyone.  

‘Such a warm and innocent heart, she was the greatest listener, someone who had time for everyone. She was a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth.

The service in memory of the popular journalist is also being attended by the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The service in memory of the popular journalist is also being attended by the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, attends the funeral service

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, attends the funeral service

The service in memory of the journalist is being attended by the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster

Friends of Ms McKee wore special T-shirts in her memory for today's service. They are pictured arriving at the funeral

Friends of Ms McKee wore special T-shirts in her memory for today's service. They are pictured arriving at the funeral

Friends of Ms McKee wore special T-shirts in her memory for today’s service. They are pictured arriving at the funeral

Mourners carrying flowers cross the square in front of St Anne's Cathedral ahead the poignant service this afternoon

Mourners carrying flowers cross the square in front of St Anne's Cathedral ahead the poignant service this afternoon

Mourners carrying flowers cross the square in front of St Anne’s Cathedral ahead the poignant service this afternoon

‘Lyra spoke to and made friends with anybody and everybody, no matter what their background, those of all political views and those with none. This openness, and her desire to bring people together, made her totally apolitical.

The cover of the order of service for Miss McKee's funeral

The cover of the order of service for Miss McKee's funeral

The cover of the order of service for Miss McKee’s funeral

‘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.’ 

Ms Canning, Miss McKee’s partner, said previously: ‘Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act.’  

Those attending were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comic merchandise in tribute to the journalist’s love of both works. Miss McKee’s family asked that only family flowers are laid, but a donation can be made via a GoFundMe page set up by the NUJ.

The New IRA admitted responsibility yesterday for the murder in a statement given to The Irish News.

Using a recognised code word, the group offered ‘full and sincere apologies’ to Miss McKee’s family and friends, claiming: ‘We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this.’

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

Police believe the violence was orchestrated in response to an earlier search by officers aimed at averting imminent trouble associated with the week’s anniversary of the Easter Rising.

A message of condolence for Miss McKee is pictured on Easter Sunday after it was graffittied onto the Free Derry Corner

A message of condolence for Miss McKee is pictured on Easter Sunday after it was graffittied onto the Free Derry Corner

A message of condolence for Miss McKee is pictured on Easter Sunday after it was graffittied onto the Free Derry Corner

Miss McKee was killed in clashes between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on April 18

Miss McKee was killed in clashes between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on April 18

Miss McKee was killed in clashes between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on April 18 

People listen to speeches during a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday after she was shot on April 18

People listen to speeches during a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday after she was shot on April 18

People listen to speeches during a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday after she was shot on April 18

People stand holding pictures of Miss McKee at a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday

People stand holding pictures of Miss McKee at a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday

People stand holding pictures of Miss McKee at a vigil in Dublin for the murdered journalist yesterday

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