Journalist Lyra McKee, who has been killed in the Creggan Estate in Derry, fought to make Northern Ireland a better place—and saw the potential for change in everyone, no matter where they came fromby Stephen Donnan / April 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
This is not an article I ever thought I would write. Not in a hundred years would I have believed this is something I would ever need to talk about.
Last night, the journalist and activist Lyra McKee was killed in the Creggan Estate in Derry. I think I speak for many when I say that we are stunned; that we are devastated at the senseless and tragic death of a young woman, killed doing what she loved. This is not something that is supposed to happen here—not any more. Lyra herself once wrote: “We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.”
I knew Lyra. In fact, she was the person who encouraged me to be a writer. She encouraged me to put pen to paper when I was in pain or felt anguish about the state of the world. So that is what I am doing now.
Lyra McKee was an award-winning journalist, a tireless campaigner for social justice and for a better world. She believed in the capacity to change in every single person—no matter who they were, where they came from, what they believed or what they had done. She was driven to shine a light on the injustices of this place and to reach out to those who others believed could not be reached. A pure soul with a desire to make our part of the world better than it was, she was a friend to so many.
I met Lyra in 2012, just after the flags protests at Belfast City Hall at which Unionists protested the restriction on the number of days the Union Flag would be flown from the building. By then, she was already someone I admired and looked up to; somebody who helped me to express what I felt in her writing and in championing those who had no champion. We would have talked about how the world could change: how the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, of which we were both members, needed people to stand up and be counted.
Lyra was a role model for young LGBT people everywhere who could not envisage a future. She was someone who walked in their shoes, held their hands and told them to hold their heads up high and to be brave, just like she was.
The world feels upside down now.
I lost touch with Lyra over a year ago. We both went separate ways but I always believed that we would go for a coffee someday again. Lyra was the best parts of this place: she was a friend and confidant to many, a beacon of hope in a place that was stained with tragedy and heartbreak. I cannot capture the pain that I feel, nor can I begin to imagine the suffering and heartache of her partner, Sarah, or her family and close friends and colleagues.
This is not a day for politics, for mealy-mouthed statements, for blame or petty point scoring. A family is shattered, hearts are broken and a bright light has been blown out forever.
We owe it to her to make this place better, to move it forward and to make sure that her name is never, ever forgotten. I will not forget her, and the outpouring of grief, of condemnation of her murder. The swell of pain today is a testament to her bravery, her spirit and to her unwavering belief that love could triumph over old hatred, even on the darkest of days.
Today is one of those days. We will miss you very much, Lyra.
“Do not tell me that there is no such thing as hope.”
A fundraiser has been set up to help Lyra’s family pay for her funeral and decide on her legacy. Stephen has asked that his fee from this article be donated.