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If New IRA was truly sorry it would end its armed campaign

Following days of intense pressure, the New IRA issued a statement on Monday night admitting responsibility for Lyra McKee's murder and offering 'sincere apologies' to her partner, family and friends.

The message from the armed organisation was not entirely unexpected. During Easter commemorations, prominent members of dissident republican group Saoradh had called on the New IRA to apologise for the killing.

There is no doubt the murder of the 29-year-old journalist and campaigner has sparked a level of anger and outrage that has proved deeply uncomfortable for dissident republicans who remain wedded to violence.

While public and political opprobrium following the murder of a police or prison officer may have little effect on hardline activists, the shooting dead of an innocent civilian in circumstances that can only be described as reckless in the extreme, is on a different level entirely.

The New IRA has sought to dodge full responsibility for the journalist's killing by accusing the PSNI of provoking the rioting that preceded the shooting on Thursday night in Derry.

However, there is absolutely no excuse for the disturbances that took place in Creggan, the throwing of petrol bombs and other missiles and there can be no possible justification for firing a gun in a built up area where crowds of people were gathered.

The actions of that gunman and those that directed him are the reason Lyra McKee is dead.

In its statement, the New IRA expressed 'sincere' apologies. Apologies are only sincere if they are genuine, honest and wholehearted.

If this group was truly sincere it would accept full responsibility and resolve to end the armed campaign that results in death, whether intentional or otherwise.

If it was truly sincere it would pursue its aims by peaceful means and stop deceiving its followers that killing people will bring about a united Ireland. It will not.

Today the family, friends and colleagues of Lyra McKee will join with political and community representatives at her funeral in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

There is no doubt that at just 29 years of age, this bright and talented young woman has left an indelible legacy which stands in stark contrast to the hellish vista offered by those responsible for her death.

If they are truly sorry for killing Lyra McKee they should offer more than self-serving words that ring hollow when we all know that some time in the future they will try to kill again.

It is encouraging to hear that more than 140 people have contacted the PSNI with information following the murder.

Police also acknowledge that some people are too scared to come forward and are considering special arrangements for the protection of potential witnesses.

A young woman whose life has been cut cruelly short is being buried today. Her killer must be brought to justice.

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