THERE is a younger generation coming up in Northern Ireland that “don’t need guns put in their hands,” the funeral of Lyra McKee has been told.
Hundreds of mourners were asked to reflect on what led to the murder of the 29-year-old last Thursday.
In a hard-hitting homily, Fr Martin Magill said: “We don’t need any more innocent blood to be shed.”
He commended political leaders for standing together in Derry since the tragedy.
“I am however left with a question: ‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?’ he said.
Fr Magill told the political leaders present in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May, it was their responsibility to get the Stormont institutions back to work.
“Many of us will be praying that Lyra’s death in its own way will not have been in vain and will contribute in some way to building peace here,” he said.
The priest expressed a hope that Lyra’s death “can be a doorway to a new beginning”.
“I detect a deep desire for this. One of Lyra’s friends was reported as saying: ‘We have had enough. There is a younger generation coming up in the town and they don't need guns put in their hands. They need jobs, they need a better health service and education. They need a life, not a gun put in their hands.’”
Fr Magill pleaded with those who have information on what happened last Thursday night to come forward.
He said those involved should reflect on how Lyra was a powerful example of the pen being “mightier than the sword”.
“It was encouraging to see that those who provide a political analysis to the organisation responsible for her death chose to call off their parade on Easter Monday following the call from Fr Joe Gormley, the parish priest in Creggan where Lyra was killed.
“To those still intent on violence, I ask you to listen to the majority of the people on your beloved island of Ireland who are calling on you to stop,” he said
Fr Magill paid tribute to the “courage and determination” of the women who “in a very powerful gesture of non violence” placed their hands in blood red paint on a wall outside dissident group Saoradh’s offices.
He begged communities to turn their back on old rules which suggested you are a tout for talking to police.
“But that was one of a number of rules - rules that also said that it was OK to brutalise children for petty crimes, or rules that say you can live in the locality until you are told you can’t or rules that said that the only way we could gain ‘freedom’ was by other fellow-human beings losing their lives.
“But this week I have seen these rules turned on their head. I have seen many people stand up and condemn this culture of violence and coercive control. 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,” Fr Magill told the congregation.
“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.
“There will be special measures put in place to ensure your safety and where you will not be intimidated by coercive controllers, if you do so.”
And he said the media, which Lyra was so proud to be part of , must report on what is being done in estates like Creggan.
“Praise good work where you find it and report when it is not happening,” he said.