Priest calls on politicians to unite in Lyra McKee’s funeral eulogy

A priest has asked Northern Ireland’s politicians why it took the death of a 29-year-old woman to unite their parties.

Members of the NUJ provided a guard of honour and applaud as a mark of respect as the remains of murdered journalist Lyra McKee leaves St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast after her funeral. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

UK Prime Minister Theresa May stood alongside her Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, behind Lyra McKee’s coffin yesterday after she was shot dead by dissident republicans while observing rioting in Londonderry.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said she intends to hold discussions with Stormont’s party leaders this week in an effort to restore powersharing. They attended a vigil together in Londonderry following the young journalist’s death.

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was seated close to DUP chief Arlene Foster inside St Anne’s Cathedral during Ms McKee’s funeral in Belfast.

Powersharing has been suspended for more than two years in a row over identity issues.

Fr Martin Magill said: “Why does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?”

Ms McKee was killed by indiscriminate fire as she observed clashes between police and New IRA dissidents on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on April 18.

The reporter was gay and non-sectarian.

She revealed to a close friend plans to propose to her partner Sara Canning and get married in Donegal in 2022 just hours before she was murdered. Same-sex marriage is outlawed in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Lusty said: “She showed me pictures of the ring she had bought for Sara and told me of the fabulous plans she had of her proposal in May.”

The service of thanksgiving was held in the Church of Ireland cathedral, a short distance from her north Belfast home and close to a popular gay nightspot.

The journalist’s sister also urged politicians to get back to work and create a society where labels become meaningless.

Ms McKee broke down barriers in a divided community in Northern Ireland, mourners were told.

She relished difference and embodied an alternative vision of a Northern Ireland at peace, a friend told the thanksgiving service in Belfast.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney were among those who attended.

Miss McKee sister Nichola Corner said she was the kindest and most gentle person the world will never forget.

“We can create a society where labels are meaningless.”

She added every single person should get the chance to grow up and make their dreams come true.

“This is Lyra’s legacy and we must carry it forward.

“This is the gift that God gave the world on the 31st of March 1990.

“We are all responsible for helping God’s will to be fulfilled, each and every one of us.”

She paid tribute to her sister’s bond with her mother.

“Whilst a broken heart can never be mended and an empty space can never be filled, the unconditional love that they both shared for each other will continue for eternity.”

Mr Lusty said she embodied a future of finding commonality, enjoying difference in others.

They had been robbed of a talent destined to become a stateswoman, with only holes left behind, he said.

He said Ms McKee’s lasting legacy should be peace.

“We have two choices, we can look into the holes and wait forever... or we can fill those holes today.

“Today we grieve but tomorrow let us fill that hole by adopting Lyra’s future and vision.”

In introductory comments, Dean 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.”

Today should mark a new beginning for Northern Ireland, Fr Magill told mourners.

Dissident republican gunmen who killed the journalist should lay down their arms, he added.

Catholic priest Fr Magill said: “I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.”