Deathly silence shields the killer of journalist Lyra McKee

By Jane Whyatt

More than one hundred days after investigative reporter Lyra McKee was shot dead during rioting in Northern Ireland, no-one has been charged in connection with her death.

Deathly silence shields the killer of journalist Lyra McKee Lyra McKee at the memorial to Robert Bradford MP. Photo: Excalibur Press

On 2. August her book about a terrorist outrage during the civil war known as ”The Troubles” is being published posthumously. Titled Angels with Blue Faces, it’s the result of Lyra McKee’s research over five years into the death in 1981 of South Belfast MP Robert Bradford. He was shot dead by the IRA, together with the caretaker of the community centre where he was meeting with constituents. Bradford was a unionist politician, supporting the union of Northern Ireland and the UK, and a former Methodist minister which put him on the other side of the conflict from the Roman Catholic Republicans who were fighting for a united island of Ireland. (Methodism is a strict Protestant sect).The MP's police bodyguard was not targeted and survived the shooting, as McKee notes in the book.

In her investigations, McKee tried to establish the truth about a cold case that had attracted international attention. At the time there was speculation that the MP was about to reveal details of the Kincora Boys Home child sex abuse scandal  which had links to Ulster Unionist politicians and officers of the British MI5 intelligence service. 

The 29 year old journalist was also working on another book The Lost Boys about youngsters who disappeared from the streets of Belfast during The Troubles. It is scheduled to be published in 2020 by Janklow and Nesbit, a branch of the Faber and Faber publishing house.

On 18. April 2019, the twenty-first anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the civil war in Northern Ireland, Lyra McKee was shot in the head during rioting in the Creggan, a Republican district of Derry (also known as Londonderry). She was taken to hospital in a police vehicle but died of her injuries. Police investigating the murder have compiled the video footage from mobile phones and CCTV cameras and posted it on YouTube. The fact-checking website bellingcat has also produced a video. This video contains disturbing images and discretion is advised when viewing or showing it.

Deathly silence shields the killer of journalist Lyra McKee Screenshot from video footage of the night Lyra McKee died released by Police Service of Northern Ireland

An extreme Republican group called the New IRA (New Irish Republican Army), connected to the Saoradh political party, has claimed responsibility for the shooting. Saoradh is the Irish language word for ‘liberation’. The party’s statement claims that Lyra Mckee was killed accidentally as ’a Republican volunteer was trying to defend local people against a heavily armed incursion by police’. The party sent a protest letter to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) claiming that civilian journalists had taken part in the police raids on homes and filmed them.

Rejecting their statement, NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Assistant General Secretary Seamus Dooley noted "Our message to Saoradh is clear and unambiguous. NUJ members will continue to do their work in a professional manner and will not accept either threats or lectures on standards from an organisation which responded in such a callous fashion to Lyra’s murder. The best way we can honour the memory of Lyra McKee is to continue her fearless work in exposing social justice and inequalities.”

Read the full statements here:

Colleagues and supporters of the murdered reporter have used red paint to place handprints on the wall of the political party office, indicating that her blood is on their hands.

Despite appeals for information and house-to-house police searches in the Creggan district, no-one has so far been charged in connection with the fatal shooting. Police have released video footage that shows a masked gunman dressed in black with white gloves emerging from behind a wall and firing towards the police vehicle where Lyra McKee was standing with another local reporter to observe the disturbance. The shot is fired, he steps back and then he and another masked man are seen again picking up small items from the ground. Officers investigating the case are still appealing for images and information that could lead to the gunman.

'Senseless murder' condemned

At her funeral, top-level tributes were paid to Lyra McKee, who was a well-known journalist and campaigner for LGBTQI rights. The then British Prime Minister Theresa May attended the service at Belfast’s St Anne’s cathedral. McKee’s partner Sara Canning condemned ’the senseless murder’ and her family appealed to the communities of Northern Ireland: 

We would ask that Lyra's life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us all as we face this tragedy together. Lyra's answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness.

The National Union of Journalists, which represents members across the whole island of Ireland and UK also held a memorial service in the Garden of Remembrance in the Irish capital Dublin.