Sunday 20 October 2019

SDLP calls for talks to restart Stormont after Lyra's murder

Mark of respect: Flowers and a candle are left at the spot where 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead. Photo: Reuters
Mark of respect: Flowers and a candle are left at the spot where 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead. Photo: Reuters

Michael McHugh

Talks to restore powersharing at Stormont should begin immediately following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, the SDLP has said.

Two teenagers who were arrested in the connection with the murder were last night released without charge as the PSNI appealed for help from the local community in Creggan in Derry.

Ms McKee was shot in the head during disturbances in the city last Thursday night.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May following the killing of the young journalist urging for talks to start this week to restore powersharing.

He said a clear message had been sent to the gunmen from communities in the Creggan estate and across Ireland.

"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," he wrote.

"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.

"On the streets of Creggan, in Derry and across Ireland a clear and resolute message has been sent to Lyra's killers and to all of those still wedded to the futility of violence.

"They are the enemies of all of us on this island and enemies of the shared future we have all chosen to build."

DUP leader Arlene Foster and her Sinn Féin counterpart Mary Lou McDonald together attended a vigil on the streets of Creggan in the hours after the killing.

They have not held political talks for months amid deep differences surrounding issues such as the place of the Irish language.

Sinn Féin is opposed to returning to devolved government until disputes like that over the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland are addressed.

Mr Eastwood said the aftermath of the murder gave a simple and direct message to political leaders to resolve their differences and get back to work.

It is 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement, but he said people had become far too casual about the risk posed by the political vacuum.

"We have too easily forgotten that failure in our politics always results in danger in our streets," he said.

"As political leaders, we are responsible for the context of political division which has let all of our people down. We can't allow it to go on."

Local government and European elections are due in Northern Ireland next month. Traditionally the period before polls open is an unpromising one for deal-making but the SDLP leader said that excuse should be removed to allow for talks to re-start.

"We have to stop failing and we need to start talking."

The PSNI confirmed last night that two men, aged 18 and 19, who were arrested in connection with the murder of Ms McKee had been released without charge.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said police had received "very positive" support from the local community in Derry. He appealed for anyone with mobile phone footage of the disturbances last week to come forward.

Meanwhile Ms McKee's partner, Sara Canning, has asked mourners to wear clothes inspired by Harry Potter and Marvel characters at the journalist's funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday. "It's going to be a celebration of her life and if people would like to wear Hufflepuff, Harry Potter, or Marvel related items, I know she would love it," she said.

Irish Independent

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