BELFAST, Northern Ireland — The funeral to celebrate the life of slain journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans during a police raid last week, was attended by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.The head of Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, was there, too. She sat beside the leaders of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald — though the two parties are so antagonistic that they have refused to serve together in Northern Ireland’s parliament for the past two years.McKee was standing beside a police van in the working-class Irish Catholic neighbourhood of Creggan in the border city of Londonderry on the night of April 18, when a masked gunman fired at the officers and others. A bullet struck the 29-year-old journalist in the head.In a statement to The Irish News, using a recognized codeword, the paramilitary group “New IRA” said one of its members was responsible for her death and offered “sincere apologies.”“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces,” the group said, reviving both the fear and revulsion that the days of sectarian violence could return to Northern Ireland. On Wednesday, St. Anne’s Cathedral was filled to capacity. Although St. Anne’s is a Church of Ireland church, the service was ecumenical, officiated by a Protestant dean and a Catholic priest.The priest, Martin Magill, told the mourners, “I commend our political leaders for standing together in Creggan on Good Friday,” the day after the murder. “I am, however, left with a question: Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman, with her whole life in front of her, to get us to this point?”The cathedral erupted in applause.“There is a younger generation coming up in the town and they don’t need guns put in their hands,” Magill said. “They need jobs, they need a better health service and education. They need a life, not a gun put in their hands.”Before the service, the overflow crowd outside began to clap with the arrival of coffin, which featured Celtic etchings and was bedecked with wreaths that spelled out the words “Team Lyra” in the rainbow colors of the LGBT community, of which the young writer and activist was a prominent member.Some of McKee’s friends attended the service dressed in Harry Potter-themed jackets and Hogwarts scarves. The journalist was a big fan of J.K. Rowling’s work.Two girls were practicing the song “Dreams” by The Cranberries. It has been popular again, featured on the soundtrack of the British hit TV sitcom “Derry Girls,” set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s during “the Troubles,” the 30 years of vicious sectarian strife that left 3,500 dead.Patrick Kielty, a comedian from Northern Ireland whose father was murdered by the IRA, wrote on Twitter: “Today Lyra McKee is laid to rest. She believed in peace, tolerance and equality. The exact opposite of those responsible. They will never win because Lyra will always be the future. And her truth will continue to be told.” Speaking at the beginning of the service, the Dean of St. Anne’s, the Very Rev. Stephen Forde, said: “Lyra was a person who broke down barriers and reached across boundaries, this was her hallmark in life, this is her legacy in death.”He added: “She was a child of the Good Friday Agreement,” the 1998 accord that mostly ended the violence in Northern Ireland. “She was a primary school pupil in north Belfast when the agreement was signed. She grew up to champion its hope for a society that was free from the prejudices of the past.”House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week led a congressional delegation to London, Belfast and Londonderry, where she repeatedly warned all sides that if the chaos of Brexit did anything to undermine the Good Friday Agreement — by imposing again, for example, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, then Congress would block any trade deals between the United States and Britain.
A handout picture released by Jess Lowe Photography on April 19, 2019 and taken on May 19, 2017 shows journalist and author Lyra McKee posing for a photograph in Belfast.
JESS LOWE/AFP/Getty Images
In reaction to McKee’s killing, friends of the journalist on Easter Sunday went to the Londonderry headquarters of dissident republicans and dabbed their handprints, covered with red paint to symbolize blood, over the building’s facade.Nearby, in the area known as “Free Derry Corner,” the scene of violent clashes between Irish republicans and British forces in the past, someone had spray-painted graffiti proclaiming: “Not in Our Name. RIP Lyra.”Alongside the some older graffiti that read “IRA,” someone else had added the words, “Are Done.”In the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, Northern Secretary Karen Bradley said, “To those responsible for this act of terrorism, we say we have heard your excuses and your hollow apologies. No one buys it.”McKee’s mother, sisters, brothers and her partner, Sara Canning, issued a statement before the funeral acknowledging “the outpouring of support and love we have witnessed this past few days.”“We as a family know that the whole community has been touched by the events of Thursday night and that many are rightly angry,” they said. “Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness.”Members of the National Union of Journalists, of which McKee was a member, escorted her coffin down the steps of the cathedral after the funeral service.— Booth reported from London