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Politicians must heed priest's powerful funeral message

An unprecedented gathering of the most senior political figures in these islands attended the funeral of Lyra McKee yesterday, a service that was remarkable in a number of respects.

St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast was the venue for this celebration of the young journalist's life, an ecumenical service which saw the Irish president, taoiseach and tanaiste alongside the British prime minister, the leader of the opposition, secretary of state and party leaders, in a congregation packed with members of the LGBT community, clergy, police, journalists, campaigners and friends of the murdered 29-year-old, many wearing Harry Potter and Marvel tee shirts and scarves.

It was an eclectic mix and very much an inclusive, diverse and cross-community gathering, reflecting the sort of society where labels become meaningless, as described by Lyra's sister Nichola.

Hopefully the presence of so many people and the enormous outpouring of support will provide Lyra's mother, partner, sisters, brothers and wider family circle with some measure of consolation as they come to terms with her tragic loss.

As well as giving thanks for a vibrant young life, the funeral was also an opportunity to send a message to those pursuing an armed campaign and to the politicians who have the means to make a real difference.

The most highly charged moment came when west Belfast priest Father Martin Magill issued a direct challenge to the politicians seated before him, asking why it had taken the death of a 29-year-old to achieve some semblance of unity between the DUP and Sinn Féin leaders, who had attended a vigil in Creggan following the murder.

The standing ovation from the packed congregation at this point was an expression of the frustration so many feel at the continuing political impasse.

Certainly, Fr Magill's message, calling for an administration that works together to build a fair and just society, one where young people have jobs and opportunity instead of turning to a life of violence, will resonate across Northern Ireland.

We need to see politics working for positive change, for the sake of all our young people.

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