A journalist has been killed amid heavy rioting in the Creggan area of Derry on Thursday night as Crown Force police raided the nationalist area of the city ahead of republican Easter commemorative events.
Petrol bombs, fireworks and other missiles were thrown by rioters at the PSNI police, while a gunman was at one point seen firing towards a PSNI vehicle.
The victim, who has been named locally as 29 year-old Lyra McKee, from north Belfast, is understood to have been walking past or standing beside a police vehicle when she was tragically struck by a bullet.
In one of the her last acts, Ms McKee tweeted a picture of police vehicles which had pulled up beside groups of civilian onlookers, with a burning barricade in the background. She added the caption ‘Derry tonight. Absolute madness.’
The clashes began on Wednesday night, when an unmarked PSNI vehicle involved in the initial stages of the police operation was struck by a petrol bomb.
Trouble has erupted every Easter in recent years as the PSNI intervene to prevent commemorative parades involving republicans marching in military-style clothing and formation.
Following the death of Ms McKee, the PSNI called for ‘calm’ but did not announce a suspension of their raids in the Creggan.
The border city of Derry has seen increasing activity by republican armed groups. In January, a large car bomb was detonated outside the city’s courthouse in an action claimed by the ‘New IRA’. No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Politicians have condemned the killing, and denied it is related to the current political crisis over Brexit.
Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, said it was a “senseless loss of life” and called for “so-called dissidents” to disband.
“Those responsible should listen to the people, they should disband immediately and end their pointless actions against the community which has tragically claimed the life of a young woman,” she said.
Ms McKee is best known for a blog post written at the age of 24, called “Letter to my 14-year-old self”, in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast.
NUJ assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley described Ms McKee as a “journalist of courage, style and integrity. She was a woman of great commitment and passion.”
Mr Dooley said her death “serves as a reminder of the ongoing instability in Northern Ireland and must serve as a reminder to those in positions of political leadership to end the political deadlock.”