Sunday 20 October 2019

Editorial: 'Lyra and shining a light into darkness'

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire


A dark and terrifying night grew darker still as shots rang out in the Creggan late last Thursday. A masked gunman beside a flaming van took Lyra McKee's life on a Derry street. Randomly. Cruelly.

Lyra McKee was doing her job. She was described by her publisher as a rising star of investigative journalism. Her work brought her close to a police van on a night of unrest. In a functioning society, it should not have brought her to her end.

Her death in the line of duty cannot be just another life lost to fear, hatred, distrust and inaction. Today Northern Ireland is without a government for 832 days - since January 9, 2017. The North's political and societal problems are indeed myriad and complex and compounded by the shifting sands of nationalism on these islands and the Brexit phenomenon. But, for all the complexity, there is a simple fact: it is an increasingly dangerous vacuum.

The political posturing has been infuriating over the past few days, particularly by those leaders in the North whose intransigence and pride has allowed that vacuum to grow, to darken and to become more deadly. When Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called Lyra McKee "a child of the peace process" it only underlined the fact that Lyra should have lived to become a senior citizen of the peace process.

Lyra's partner, Sara Canning, put it succinctly: "Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act." The "LGBTQIA community is left without a tireless advocate and activist and it has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with". She added: "This cannot stand. Lyra's death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on and the life that she has left behind."

Make no mistake, a gunman killed Lyra McKee and the responsibility for her death lies with him and his associates. However, the continued threat of slipping back towards the horrific violence of the Troubles rests with leaders across all communities on these islands.

Finding and agreeing a fragile peace seemed like a miracle at Easter time 21 years ago. However, the risk that we will fail to make it permanent remains. We are proud of that peace, but we must challenge ourselves this Easter Sunday morning and acknowledge how much more there is to do.

Two years before the Good Friday Agreement, in June 1996, the Sunday Independent's Veronica Guerin was murdered by criminals whose activities she had exposed. She showed remarkable bravery in her reporting on these pages. In 2001, the Sunday World's Martin O'Hagan was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries. Before her death, after being subjected to threats and violence, Veronica retained the strength of courage and character to outline the reason why journalists like her and Martin continue to pursue men of violence in search of the truth.

"Do they think they're untouchable, just because governments have not had the guts to stand up to them? The media won't let go, because that's what our job is. The only thing that will influence a good reporter is the story. If there are lies, it is our job as reporters to highlight them."

May they all rest in peace and may we honour their memory in the best possible way by continuing to shine a light into dark corners in search of the truth.

This darkness cannot stand.

Sunday Independent

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