Northern Ireland news

Politicians accused of 'exploiting' Lyra McKee's funeral for own ends

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar , Prime Minister Theresa May, President Michael D Higgins and Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle during the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

THE high-ranking politicians who attended Lyra McKee's funeral have been accused of exploiting the event for their own ends.

An unprecedented number of senior Irish and British politicians attended yesterday's service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May joined mourners and the dead writer's family at the funeral service, which came six days after the 29-year-old was shot dead in Derry by the New IRA.

Also in attendance alongside the leaders of Northern Ireland's main parties were Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Secretary of State Karen Bradley, the Republic's Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, and shadow secretary of state Tony Lloyd.

Read more: Lyra McKee's funeral hears priest challenge Northern Ireland politicians

The number of senior politicians present contrasted with corresponding events in the past, such as the March 2016 funeral of prison officer Adrian Ismay.

At murdered PSNI officer Ronan Kerr's funeral in 2011, the then taoiseach Enda Kenny travelled north and was joined by the first and deputy first minister of the time, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. However, it is rare for so many leading politicians to attend a non-state funeral.

 

Even the funerals of the Omagh bomb victims in 1998 did not attract such senior political representatives as were gathered in St Anne's Cathedral.

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While the presence of statesmen and women alongside leading politicians will bring comfort to Ms McKee's family, Irish News columnist Brian Feeney has suggested that some of those present are using the funeral to "produce a particular agenda".

"The appearance of Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, the president of Ireland, Varadkar, Coveney – I must say I don't find it particularly edifying that they are all there," he said on BBC's Talkback.

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"I think they are taking advantage of tragic circumstances for their own purposes – their presence there is actually making the whole event about them rather than the funeral of Lyra McKee."

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