By Jane Whyatt
Across Europe on the afternoon of 24. April, the media freedom community will pause to remember investigative reporter Lyra McKee, as her funeral service takes place in Belfast. McKee was shot dead in Derry, Northern Ireland, as rioting broke out following police raids on suspected terrorists. The extremist republican New IRA has claimed responsibility for the killing, and apologised.
McKee, aged 29, was a freelancer and author who dedicated herself to writing about Northern Ireland and The Troubles – the decades of civil strife between Protestant unionists and Catholic republicans that ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The topic has been a focus of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, as UK’s planned exit from the EU may re-introduce a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
McKee’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Buzzfeed and Mosaic Science. She was an active member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and scheduled to speak at Belfast’s World Press Freedom Day event, organised by Amnesty International.
The NUJ, which represents journalists across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, has invited human rights campaigners and press freedom defenders to take part in a moment’s silence at 13:00 British Summer Time on 24. April. That is the time McKee’s funeral will start at St Anne’s Cathedral. People are encouraged to share their photos of the remembrance on social media, using the hashtag #WeStandWithLyra.
Author of The Lost Boys, a book due to be published in 2020 by Faber & Faber, Lyra McKee had made extensive investigations into the disappearance of boys and young men during The Troubles. Some were victims of the paramilitaries, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).
Paying tribute, her publisher Alex Bowler said:
We are heartbroken and appalled by the news of Lyra McKee’s death in Derry. Lyra was a writer of exceptional gifts and compassion, an inspiring, determined seeker of truth, and the most beloved of human beings. We are honoured to be her publisher.
Lyra McKee had written, too, about growing up lesbian in the strictly religious divided city of Belfast during The Troubles.
McKee leaves a partner, Sara Canning, who described her as as a “tireless advocate and activist” for the LGBT community. The journalist’s funeral will be held at the Church of Ireland (Episcopalian) St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday, 24. April.