Thursday 23 January 2020

Nichola McKee Corner: 'Failure is not an option as we pray that Lyra's death was not in vain'


Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Derry last April
Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Derry last April

Nichola McKee Corner

As Tánaiste Simon Coveney reminded the world that "Lyra's murder brought us back to these talks" outside Stormont Castle, our hearts shattered all over again and tears broke through their temporary dams.

It should never have taken the murder of our beautiful wee Lyra to bring Northern Ireland's politicians back to the talks table that would, eventually, lead to the 'New Decade, New Approach' deal.

In the days that followed Lyra's murder, the people of Northern Ireland were given hope that "dormant Stormont" would soon be given a new lease of life. But that didn't happen. As weeks turned into months, out of sheer frustration and the very fact the politicians chose to use our tragedy as a springboard to end the political stagnation that they created, our family launched a campaign to remind politicians that "failure is not an option". Having received responses to our letters and postcards from a wide range of political and public leaders, we found every respondent purported to be as desirous for a return of the power-sharing institutions as we were.

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Yet, for some time, it appeared our politicians would rather fail than try a new approach to governing that would meet the needs of all of the people in our "beautiful tragedy". During the campaign, as family representative, I met both Julian Smith and Simon Coveney. These true statesmen gave personal assurances they would continue to encourage our politicians to return to talks, support them in reaching a deal that was equitable and sought to assist our family in our aim to ensure "true peace becomes Lyra McKee's lasting legacy".

Keeping in touch after our personal meetings, it was very clear to us that these leaders were both genuine and honourable. The announcement outside Stormont Castle and the deal testifies to the accuracy of this assessment. By sharing Lyra's poetic description of "home", Mr Coveney reminded us of our shared dark past that led to our greatest personal tragedy: her murder. His decision to quote Lyra in this context helps us believe Lyra's death was not in vain.

This does not absolve the permanent pain of our great loss, but it does help us believe that other families may be saved from being forced to experience this inescapable pain through no fault of their own. It helps us to have hope "it won't always be like this. It's going to get better", just as Lyra envisaged.

Through 'New Decade, New Approach', we may see the day when Northern Ireland finally breaks free from "the chains of its past". It will be a challenge for everyone, not just our politicians. Although, sometimes, like Lyra, we may "love it and hate it in equal measure", we are collectively responsible for helping to develop a truly peaceful, inclusive and equitable society because: We deserve better. We deserve peace. Failure is no longer an option.

Nichola McKee Corner is the sister of the late Lyra McKee

Irish Independent

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