Thursday 23 May 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'The bullet has to stop somewhere'

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Journalist Lyra McKee. Picture: Jess Lowe
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

There was a time when this wouldn't have seemed like such a big deal.

There was a time when we were used to waking up to this kind of bad news. There was a time when those of us down here felt somewhat disconnected from it. There was a time when foreigners would ask you about living in Ireland and guns and bombs, and we would casually dismiss it, saying it didn't happen where we lived. There was a time when you couldn't remember each of the victims individually, when you couldn't even remember all their names. There was a time when we wouldn't have known what she did and what she thought and that there were so many other strands to her than just being a Catholic, or a victim, or a number, or a casualty.

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There was a time when the first thing we would have known was which side she came from, and when that might have given us some idea as to who did it. There was a time when this kind of thing was considered to be about politics in some way, when we set those who did it apart from common criminals, or common thugs.

Indeed, there was a time when some of the people who did it were lionised and revered, heroes and martyrs.

There was a time when her sexuality would have been a secret, when her partner would not have stood up, proud and heartbroken, to tell of her loss. There was a time when she was ''them'', double them. Them up there as well.

But they were different times. And one thing we have learnt in the last 48 hours is that no one is willing to go back to those times. In the cold light of a Good Friday morning in 2019 it was hard to comprehend that this happened. It just didn't fit any more with who we are and where we are in 21st-century Ireland, when people die of suicide, road accidents, illness, tragedy and old age, but not from a paramilitary bullet.

And even as the politicians from all sides gathered there, they looked like something from another time, too - politicians for whom Ireland and England and Europe and America have done everything, everything to get them join the rest of us in the 21st Century. But still they can't sit down together and mind their people, still they can't work together, still they can't move on. And what we saw in the last few days is that their people, in Creggan, in Derry, all over the North and all over this island, are miles ahead of them. The politicians in the North need to play catch-up now and fast.

The PSNI's Mark Hamilton pointed out last Friday that a bullet has to stop somewhere.

That's why you don't fire into a crowd.

Lyra McKee stopped that bullet on Thursday night.

And maybe she will teach everyone now that the bullet has to stop somewhere, and that somewhere is here and now.

Sunday Independent

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