Lyra McKee first anniversary: It has been the ‘most horrific and surreal year’

NUJ proposes symbolic virtual commemoration ‘in solidarity and remembrance’

Bells will ring out in the Creggan in Derry on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the murder of 29-year-old Belfast journalist Lyra McKee.

Ms McKee was shot dead on April 18th last year as she was observing rioting in the city. The New IRA admitted the murder.

A special Mass is to be offered in St Mary's Chapel in Creggan by the parish priest who anointed her, Fr Joe Gormley.

The Mass, which also will be in memory of Ms McKee's mother, Joan Lawrie, who died last month, will be held at 6.30pm while the bells will ring at 8.30pm.


The Mass can be viewed via the church’s webcam. Bells also will be rung in her native city of Belfast on Saturday to mark the anniversary.

Fr Gormley said it was important that Ms McKee be remembered. “It is also important that Lyra does not become another statistic of the Troubles,” he said.

“The effects of every killing of the Troubles continue on and on,” he said. “I am thinking how the death of her mother highlights the fact that people do carry pain to their graves, and it does hasten people going to their graves as well.”

Ms McKee's partner, Sara Canning, said on Friday she still hoped there would be justice. She described the past 12 months as the "most horrific and surreal year".

“I miss my life with her. If I could go back to this time last year I’d do things differently,” she told BBC Radio Foyle.

“I wish we stayed in bed that night and just read books and talked nonsense to each other. I really hope we get justice. I don’t want to give up hope,” Ms Canning added.

On Saturday at 11am, National Union of Journalist (NUJ) members will join “in solidarity and remembrance” to mark the first anniversary of the murder. The NUJ is to celebrate Ms McKee’s life and legacy and has encouraged members and friends of Ms McKee to take part in a symbolic virtual commemoration.

The union has asked that social media be used “to highlight the shared values which Lyra embraced under the banner #WeStandWithLyra”.

The NUJ has also asked media workers to share examples of Ms McKee’s journalism, tributes, memories and pictures on Saturday morning.

Community help

This week, the PSNI detective leading the murder investigation wrote to residents in the Creggan asking for community help in convicting her killers.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said: "Lyra's murder was not committed in isolation, nor did it involve only one person. The events that led up to Lyra being shot, and the events afterwards, are equally important. I am asking the community to reach into its conscience and tell us what it knows."

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said Ms McKee's murder was a "reminder of the risks that reporters face every day around the world, including here in Northern Ireland".

He said: “Northern Ireland continues to be the most dangerous part of the UK to be a journalist, threatening press freedom daily. In the year since Lyra’s death, reporters have continued to receive threats of violence and death on a regular basis.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken in marking the anniversary said that a truly peaceful society can emerge in Northern Ireland only when all communities give total support to the police and help them to put criminal gangs out of business.

“The people responsible for Lyra McKee’s murder – like their criminal counterparts elsewhere in Northern Ireland – seek to invoke a political cause to try to give a veneer of respectability to their criminal activities,” he said.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times