Northern Ireland news

Friends of Lyra McKee place red handprints on Saoradh's Derry HQ

Friends of murdered journalist Lyra McKee used red paint to make handprints on the walls of Saoradh's office in Derry. Pictures by Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Digital Staff

Friends of Derry murder victim Lyra McKee have held a protest at the headquarters of dissident republican group Saoradh by placing red handprints on the building's wall.

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead on Thursday evening during rioting in the city. The journalist was originally from north Belfast but had moved to Derry to be with her partner.

Police have said they believe the New IRA was behind her murder. Saoradh are a political group linked to that organisation.

Friends of Ms McKee gathered at 'Junior McDaid House' this afternoon before placing their hands in red paint and putting them on the exterior wall of the Chamberlain Street building.

A group of some six men, understood to be members of Saoradh, stood outside the building during the intense protest.

PSNI officers were also present and later asked for the names of those involved in the incident.

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Friends of murdered journalist Lyra McKee used red paint to make handprints on the walls of Saoradh's office in Derry. Picture by Cate McCurry/PA Wire

Lyra's friend Sinead Quinn, who took part in the protest, said: "We have used red paint because they have blood on their hands for what has happened.

"They have encouraged it, they have moulded these young people into what they are and they are standing behind them handing them guns.

"They need to take responsibility today for what has happened.

"They have shirked it so far by saying it was an accidental shooting. You don't shoot accidentally."

She added: "When you put a gun into someone's hand and they shoot it, that's murder.

"Lyra deserves more and I am so glad there are so many people here today to see and watch these men looking at us.

"They are not a representation of republican people in this town.

"Those people don't represent (republicanism). Nobody can advocate shooting into a crowd of people and shooting a 29-year-old woman dead.

"People have been afraid to stand up to people like this, we are not afraid."

Another friend said: "We have had enough. There is a younger generation coming up in the town and they don't need guns put in their hands.

"They need jobs, they need a better health service and education.

"They need a life, not a gun put in their hands."

The group of friends have pledged to do more in Lyra's memory.

"Lyra's McKee's name will never be forgotten in this town," Ms Quinn added.

"We have to do it for her."

Local resident John Lindsay said: "We are using this as an opportunity to speak out against these people.

"The whole town has told them they are not wanted here.

"They have freedom to speak, they don't have freedom for violence and they don't have the right to carry out acts of violence.

"There is mood change here, even hardline republicans are speaking out against them and saying they need to desist.

"My message to them is go away and get off our backs and stop dragging children into the past into a life of misery."

The protest comes as up to 200 members and supporters of Saoradh took part in an Easter Monday commemoration march in west Belfast.

A similar march that was to be held in Derry on Monday was called off following the murder of Ms McKee.

The group's national chairman Brian Kenna called for the New IRA to apologise for the murder during a speech he delivered at Milltown Cemetery.

Ms McKee's funeral will be held in her native Belfast on Wednesday.

The landmark Free Derry Corner has been repainted to include the words "not in our name - RIP Lyra" to reflect community revulsion felt at the killing.

A message of condolence for 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee which has been painted on Free Derry Corner. Picture by Joe Boland, Press Association

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

Police believe the violence was orchestrated in response to an earlier search by officers aimed at averting imminent trouble associated with this week's anniversary of the Easter Rising.

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