Monday 16 September 2019

Coveney meets with political leaders in Northern Ireland, as New IRA admits responsibility for death of Lyra McKee

Journalist Lyra McKee was the victim of a fatal shooting in Derry late at night on Easter Thursday
Journalist Lyra McKee was the victim of a fatal shooting in Derry late at night on Easter Thursday
Hand delivered: Friends of Lyra McKee paint blood-red handprints on the Derry office of dissident republicans. Photo: Trevor McBride
Probe continues: Investigators at the scene of the fatal shooting on the Creggan estate Photo: Paul FAITH / AFP
United in sorrow: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with DUP leader Arlene Foster at a vigil in Derry following the death of journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Fein Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at a government residence in Belfast for meeting with Tanaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A lone protester makes a stand for Lyra McKee at the Saoradh Easter Commemoration in Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin 20/4/2019
Mark of respect: Flowers and a candle are left at the spot where 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead. Photo: Reuters
Happy couple: Lyra McKee and her partner Sara Canning
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has met with political representatives in Belfast following the death of journalist Lyra McKee.

Tanaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney travelled to Northern Ireland to discuss the current impasse in Stormont.

Ms McKee (29) was fatally shot during unrest in Derry on Thursday night by a dissident republican-linked group which claimed responsibility in a Belfast newspaper on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein leader in the north of Ireland Michelle O'Neill was seen entering an Irish Government residence in Belfast for the meeting late on Tuesday afternoon.

Sinn Fein Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at a government residence in Belfast for meeting with Tanaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sinn Fein Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at a government residence in Belfast for meeting with Tanaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A spokesman for the Alliance Party told the Press Association: "Simon Coveney and Naomi Long have had a phone call this morning and will be speaking again later today.

"We are aware the Tanaiste is travelling to Belfast for a series of private meetings."

The death of Ms McKee has caused widespread outrage amongst political and community leaders and sparked SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to call for talks between the Northern Ireland parties to restore the government in Stormont.

"There is an unmistakable public desire that the tragic and terrible loss of Lyra McKee marks a turning point for our peace and political process," Mr Eastwood's letter said.

Hand delivered: Friends of Lyra McKee paint blood-red handprints on the Derry office of dissident republicans. Photo: Trevor McBride
Hand delivered: Friends of Lyra McKee paint blood-red handprints on the Derry office of dissident republicans. Photo: Trevor McBride

"I am therefore writing to all party leaders and to the two governments to urge that talks are convened this week in order to finally restore government in Northern Ireland."

Earlier today, the New IRA admitted responsibility for the murder of Ms McKee.

In a statement given to The Irish News using a recognised code word, the group 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 it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

United in sorrow: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with DUP leader Arlene Foster at a vigil in Derry following the death of journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
United in sorrow: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald with DUP leader Arlene Foster at a vigil in Derry following the death of journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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

The statement said: "On Thursday night following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage.

"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 is the biggest of the dissident republican groups operating in Northern Ireland.

It has been linked with four murders, including Pc Ronan Kerr, who was killed by an under-car bomb in Omagh in 2011.

The group is also linked to the deaths of prison officers David Black, who was shot as he drove to work at Maghaberry Prison in 2012, and Adrian Ismay, who died in 2016 after a bomb exploded under his van outside his home in east Belfast.

The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA - the group behind the 1998 Omagh bomb.

It is strongest in Derry, north and west Belfast, Strabane in Co Derry, Lurgan in Co Armagh, and pockets of Tyrone.

This year the group was responsible for a car bomb outside the courthouse in Bishop Street, Derry.

The explosives-laden car was left on the city centre street on a Saturday night in January, and scores of people, including a group of teenagers, had walked past before it detonated.

The New IRA also claimed a number package bombs posted to targets in London and Glasgow in March.

A 57-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the murder this morning.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the woman is being held under the Terrorism Act.

"Major Investigation Team detectives have arrested a 57-year-old woman under the Terrorism Act in connection with the murder of Lyra McKee in Creggan in Derry," a PSNI spokesperson said.

"She has been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite."

On Sunday, two teenagers aged 18 and 19 arrested in connection with the young journalist's death were released without charge.

Meanwhile, MTV insists there is "no evidence" any media presence in Derry "contributed or impacted" the night of rioting which culminated in the murder of Lyra McKee.

The broadcaster made the statement in the wake of reports youths in the nationalist Creggan estate had orchestrated the rioting for the cameras, knowing MTV was filming with former 'Top of the Pops' presenter Reggie Yates.

Yates has been filming a documentary series with MTV on the issues young people face globally in 'Reggie Yates vs The World'. A promo describes the presenter as "immersing himself in extreme situations to gain new perspective on each situation".

Yates and his crew were filming in Creggan last Thursday when youths started hurling petrol bombs at PSNI officers before the fatal shooting of journalist Ms McKee.

A spokeswoman for MTV told the Irish Independent: "As stated by the PSNI, there is no evidence of any sort to show that the presence of media on the ground contributed or impacted the situation on the Creggan estate the night that Lyra McKee was tragically shot and killed.

"Crowds had already assembled following a police search in the area and, upon hearing about the search, a production company filming a documentary for MTV made their way to the area, as did multiple other news crews who were also present on the scene. MTV is not a line of enquiry in police investigations."

'The Guardian' reported that a community organiser in Derry claimed members of the New IRA and its political wing Saoradh were playing to the cameras.

MTV travelled to Derry with Flicker Productions, producers of the show, to investigate social tensions after the Brexit vote and ongoing impasse.

Calls have been made to restore power-sharing in the North in the wake of Ms McKee's murder.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, tweeted: "I have written to all party leaders across the North and the two governments to ask for the commencement of immediate political talks to restore power-sharing. We need a government, this cannot go on. Enough is enough."

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