Lyra's family pay tribute to 'gentle soul' ahead of funeral
The heartbroken family of murdered journalist Lyra McKee have paid tribute to her, saying she was a "gentle innocent soul who wouldn't wish ill on anyone".
In a statement, Ms McKee's mother Joan, brothers Gary and David and sisters Joan Hunter, Nichola Corner and Mary Crossan called on people to continue the 29-year-old's message of hope.
Ms McKee was shot dead during violent scenes in the Creggan estate in Derry last Thursday.
In the statement, released by Kinnear & Co solicitors, the family said: "On Thursday 18th April 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 a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth.
"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.
"We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love we have witnessed this past few days. It has been of immense solace that Lyra meant so much to so many.
"We ask everyone who knew Lyra to continue her message of positivity and hope, by respecting her memory with dignity and respect.
"We as a family know that the whole community has been touched by the events of Thursday night and that many are rightly angry.
"However, 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."
Meanwhile, a "walk for peace" from Belfast to Derry is being organised in memory of Ms McKee.
It is being planned by people who say they have been affected by Lyra's murder.
Dissident republican group the New IRA yesterday accepted responsibility for her murder.
The walk will take place from May 25-27, beginning in Belfast and finishing up 110km later in Derry.
A spokesperson for the event organisers said the walk had been given approval by Lyra's family and partner Sara Canning.
They said the walk "will not become a platform for politicians or political groups".
"In 1998, the people of Ireland, north and south, signed the Belfast Agreement. It was an agreement to respect each others' differences and work together to create a better future, for ourselves and future generations," the spokesperson said.
"This was not just an agreement to task our politicians with ironing out our political differences - it was a contract, which we all signed, and which we should carry with us everywhere we go.
"Twenty-one years after we signed this contract, another young, talented life was snuffed out in an instant, by people who didn't sign up to this contract.
"We cannot stand by idly while a tiny minority cause heartbreak like this any more."
In a statement given to 'The Irish News' using a recognised code word, the New IRA offered "full and sincere apologies" to her family and friends.
The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.
The New IRA statement said: "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.
"In the course of attacking the enemy, Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.
"The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death."
The New IRA was responsible for a car bomb outside a courthouse in Bishop Street, Derry. The PSNI said yesterday a woman (57) had been arrested in connection with Ms McKee's murder. On Sunday, two teens aged 18 and 19 arrested in connection with the murder were released without charge.