Northern Ireland news

Lyra McKee's partner says she has 'lost the woman I was planning to grow old with'

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead on Thursday night during riots in Derry
Brendan Hughes

LYRA McKee has been fondly remembered by friends as a "rising star" in journalism who proudly championed the LGBT community.

The 29-year-old gained prominence in 2014 for a blog post called "Letter to my 14-year-old self", in which she wrote about her personal struggles with growing up gay in Belfast.

In the years since, her letter was turned into a short film, she wrote for local and international publications, and had recently signed a two-book deal with Faber & Faber.

She previously launched an online crowd-funding project to write a non-fiction book about the Troubles-era cold case murder of South Belfast MP Rev Robert Bradford.

Named as one of the "30 under 30 in media" by Forbes Magazine in 2016, Ms McKee was cited for her passion to "dig into topics that others don't care about".

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The north Belfast woman also worked on a grassroots campaign to reform Northern Ireland's libel laws.

At a vigil in Derry, her partner Sara Canning said she had been left without "the woman I was planning to grow old with".

"We are all poorer for the loss of Lyra," she said.

 Sara Canning, the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, spoke at a rally in Derry's Creggan estate after the killing. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, described Ms McKee as a "hero to many in the LGBT community".

He said she was a "remarkable person" who had "volunteered and fundraised for us, including at a Strictly Come Dancing fundraising event".

"Lyra described herself as someone with two left feet but like everything she did in her life, she gave it everything she had and our lasting memory will be of a smiling and dancing Lyra," he added.

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry on Thursday night. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), praised her as a "journalist of courage, style and integrity".

Ciarán Ó Maoláin, the NUJ's Belfast secretary, who knew Ms McKee, described her as "intelligent, determined and very witty".

"Those whom she trusted were privileged to be taken into her confidence," he said.

"There is no comfort for us in knowing that her killing, unlike that of Martin O'Hagan or Veronica Guerin, was not targeted."

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Friend Ian Shanks described Ms McKee as "everything you wanted to be in life – honest, funny, sincere, caring".

"I remember how she always wanted to help with our homeless group. She always genuinely cared about everyone around her and beyond," he said.

Close friend Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in 1984, said Ms McKee was a "kind, gentle, witty and stubborn soul".

"I just can't believe that this witty, clever human being has been taken... Feel sick," she said.

Journalist Lyra McKee (29) was originally from north Belfast

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said Ms McKee's murder has caused "widespread shock and revulsion".

"I have every confidence that the wider community will come together at this time to make clear our conviction that violence solves nothing," he said.

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