Allan Preston: Natalie McNally had a passion for issues in which she believed

Natalie McNally (right) pictured with her mother Bernadette in 2020.
Allan Preston

AS a reporter, I spoke to Natalie McNally for a health story she had highlighted on social media back in August 2020.

Although it was only a quick chat on the phone, her immediate friendliness and passion for the issues she believed in was obvious. After contacting her on Twitter, she quickly replied to say she was happy to share her experience of living with Type 1 Diabetes.

She praised health workers but spoke of her frustration at facing a four year wait to receive an insulin pump, something that would drastically improve how she managed her condition.

"It's really saddening to know that if I walked into a clinic in England I could get this device next week and really improve my life, it's a really baffling situation," she said at the time.

"I'm very grateful for the treatment I do get but it almost feels like it's a real waste. I don't know the ins and outs of NHS funding in Northern Ireland, but I do think they're doing their best with limited means and need further investment."

Addressing then Health Minister Robin Swann, she said: "I understand that he's in an incredibly difficult position and has had to deal with coronavirus which has probably overtaken all his plans. But I would say there is an urgent need for health service funding. I understand his predicament, but it's been like that for a long time."

Asked for a photo to use with the story, she also demonstrated the obvious love she had for her family by choosing a smiling picture beside her proud mother Bernie. I was left with the impression of a highly positive and articulate person and I was shocked when that same photo emerged more than two years later attached to headlines about her murder.

Alongside the distressing details of her death and public outcry that her killer remains at large, a growing picture also emerged of the positive life she was building and the loving parents and brothers left behind devastated by her loss.

While desperately waiting for a breakthough in the police investigation, her father Noel told The Irish News his daughter “was never so happy” before her life was taken. Expecting her first child and planning to set up a home with her boyfriend, she enjoyed a marketing career with Translink and was also known for her love of animals.