Tributes have been paid to the young freelance journalist, Lyra McKee, who lost her life during rioting in Derry on Thursday night after she was struck by a bullet aimed at police vehicles.
Ms McKee was a popular member of the media, literary and LGBT communities in the North of Ireland, and had won awards from Sky News and Forbes magazine.
At the age of 17, her teenage diary was published on the BBC Blast website. Seven years later, McKee won international attention with a piece describing the challenges of growing up gay in Belfast, which was subsequently made into a short film.
McKee’s work as a journalist included a number of articles she wrote for The Atlantic, The Belfast Telegraph, Private Eye and BuzzFeed News. With a successful career in Irish and British journalism under her belt, she was also tipped for literary fame in the footsteps of the Booker prize-winning author Anna Burns, who attended the same school as McKee in north Belfast. Her analysis of the killing of a unionist politician by the Provisional IRA in 1981 looks set to be published within weeks.
Praised for making a contribution to ‘post-conflict’ literature in Ireland and Britain, her death has come as a devastating blow for those who knew her work. Dr Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado, an academic at Maynooth University specialising in Postcolonial Studies, wrote that she was “horrified and sickened” by the death.
“Lyra was tirelessly devoted to those affected by Troubles violence and to those who were forgotten,” she said. “The fact that she died as a result of senseless sectarian violence when working to counter it is absolutely unconscionable and unpardonable.”
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins described her as a “woman of talent and commitment, who was shot exercising her profession”. He said her death would invoke “shock, outrage and great sadness”.
“The loss of a journalist at any time, in any part of the world is an attack on truth itself,” he said.
Ms McKee is the third journalist to lose her life in the conflict in the north of Ireland. Her death comes almost 18 years after the last killing of an investigative reporter- Martin O’Hagan, who worked for the Sunday World, was assassinated by the loyalist LVF in September 2001 after he had exposed the organisation’s drugs trade and sectarian killings.
The tributes to Ms McKee were led by her partner, Sara Canning, who told a vigil that her “amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act”.
Ms Canning said: “Victims and LGBTQIA community are 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.
“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.”