Priest pleads with political leaders for deal

Priest pleads with political leaders for deal Tributes paid to Lyra McKee

A Belfast-based priest has urged politicians in the North to use the murder of a 29-year-old journalist as the inspiration to restart talks on a cross-community power-sharing government.

Lyra McKee (29) was killed April 18 after a gunman from a dissident paramilitary faction opened fire on the police. She had been covering political unrest in a Catholic area of Derry.

Speaking at her funeral – an ecumenical service in St Anne’s Anglican Cathedral in Belfast – Fr Martin Magill, who knew Lyra well, recalled how she learned the Beatitudes off by heart and would often quote those words of Christ.

The service was attended by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May as well as many local political leaders from both the Catholic and Protestant community.

In his sermon, Fr Magill addressed the politicians directly saying “all our young people need a life that gives them an aspiration for the future. As our politicians we need you to be working together to make that happen so that especially for those living in deprived areas that they will feel the peace process is working for them as well – and especially for young people living in these communities.

“I know you as politicians have a very difficult job to do but then so too did Lyra. There is another valuable lesson from her life – she was like ‘a dog with a bone’ when she believed she could make a difference,” Fr Magill said.

Referring to the fact that the region has been without a government for over two years after the cross-community coalition collapsed due to a lack of trust between the parties, Fr Magill said: “when it comes to our peace process, I would love to see this dogged attitude to the rebuilding of an Assembly that works for the common good.

“As I listen to the radio every morning, all I seem to hear about various initiatives in Northern Ireland are these words, ‘without a minister, this can’t be taken forward’. I pray that Lyra’s murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive in previous Assemblies and to begin anew,” he said.

A group calling itself the new IRA – which opposes the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the region after 30 years of sectarian violence – claimed responsibility for the shooting that killed Miss McKee.