'New IRA's attempt to justify Lyra's murder is insane'
A close friend of Lyra McKee has said the latest attempt by the New IRA to justify the journalist's murder and its ongoing terror campaign is "absolute insanity".
Victims' campaigner Ann Travers last night condemned the terror group - which 11 days ago fatally shot the 29-year-old writer in Derry - calling it "disgusting and insane".
She was speaking after the New IRA army council gave a newspaper interview in which it openly admitted the killing of Ms McKee did not further its "cause".
It also said it accepted its gun and bomb attacks would not "defeat" the British army and its deadly campaign would never succeed.
However, it said this would not deter it as its actions serve another purpose, it told the 'Sunday Times'.
"They are symbolic. They are propaganda. They let the world know there is an ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland," explained a member.
Ms Travers, whose 22-year-old sister Mary was shot dead and her magistrate father Tom seriously injured in an IRA gun attack in 1984, said the killers' thinking is deeply warped - particularly as it has acknowledged its deadly campaign is futile.
"The fact that they can say that their actions to murder are symbolic shows the measure of their absolute insanity," she said.
"It shows a lack of emotion and lack of humanity that they can take a human life like that."
The New IRA, which refused to say if it is planning to escalate its gun and bomb campaign, also said it would be "remiss of us not to capitalise on the opportunity" presented by Brexit.
"Brexit has forced the IRA to refocus and has underlined how Ireland remains partitioned," it said. "It's put the Border on the agenda again."
But Ms Travers dismissed this claim as a blatant and cynical attempt by the New IRA to exploit the current political situation.
The group's attempt to absolve itself of her friend's killing by insisting it had not planned an operation in Derry's Creggan area the evening Ms McKee was shot in the head amid a street riot was pathetic, added Ms Travers.
"It was our intention to engage with the Crown forces when they started searching houses that led to the death. That poor woman got caught in the street violence," the New IRA spokesman said. Ms Travers said the paramilitary group was deluded as it was armed on the evening in question, ready to kill or wound.
"[Lyra's killer] had a gun. What did they think would happen?
"They knew that there were neighbours, children and journalists there," she said.
"It was nothing more than murder. The use of language like 'Crown forces' shows that they are in a time-warp, like they're back in the 1970s."
Ms Travers said she could only agree with the New IRA's admission its apology to Ms McKee's family was "hollow" and nothing it could say would bring comfort to the journalist's loved ones.
"Their apology is hollow. They need to put their guns and bombs to rest and hand over Lyra's killer," she said "They need to be brave and accountable, instead of the cowards that they are."
She said the New IRA's remarks were deeply hurtful to Ms McKee's family, who continue to grapple with the enormity of her loss.
"Lyra's family are very gentle, very private - no doubt these [New IRA comments] will be causing them untold distress.
"There was no reason for her death. Lyra had every right to be there that night."