Northern Ireland news

'How dare they' - priest who anointed journalist Lyra McKee hits out at killers

A hijacked car explodes after being set on fire in Creggan, Derry 

A priest who anointed journalist Lyra McKee has hit out at her killers.

Creggan priest Fr Joe Gormley was at Ms McKee's bedside after she was fatally shot in the Creggan amid rioting last night.

"I went and anointed her," he told BBC Radio Foyle.

"Her family and her partner have great dignity.

"Many of her friends were there last night and they were all shocked as well. They have great dignity but they are feeling the loss this morning. The shock, for them, is awful."

 Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry

Fr Gormley also called on anti-agreement republicans not to march in Derry as part of their Easter Rising commemorations on Monday.

He said his whole parish was stunned by the killing and accused those outside the area of being behind the attack.

"Our parish is full of so many good people and these people come into our area and use us to carry out such vile acts. How dare they. How dare they," he said.

The scene on Fanad Drive in Derry, following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident" 

"They have done it in this Holy Week. They have done it in a way that is totally, totally anti-Gospel and literally anti-Christ."

An emotional Fr Gormley added: "No one deserves this."

"What cause in God's name has been served by this?" he said.

"And I live in a community that has suffered enough from the Troubles over the years. 

"In fact Lyra herself, she herself knew about the effects of the Troubles - particularly in children.

The scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident" 

"We see in our parish the effects on young people and young people's lives; the terrible, terrible effects of violence and we have a new generation of mindless people who think that to cause a riot; to bring guns on the street to intimidate; to tell people that they're under house arrest or that they're going to be shot."

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Fr Gormley said it was futile to think that paramilitaries could solve anything.

"I think we all have to get over this idea that somehow asking anybody in this regard to do anything for you, in terms of sorting out some of your problems, is evil and it's wrong," he said.

"And these people are not concerned about your problems. They are concerned about their own narrow agenda. And I would appeal to them this morning to desist."

Lyra McKee was killed during rioting in the Creggan in Derry last night

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Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown echoed Fr Gormley's comments said his thoughts were with Ms McKee's family.

"Anyone who fires shots in the middle of a highly built-up area is absolutely off their rocker.

"The notion that you can kill someone and bring something absolutely beautiful out of it...The message of the Good Friday Agreement is killing doesn't bring any benefit."

Bishop McKeown said it would be irresponsible for dissidents to march on Monday.

President Michael D Higgins speaks to media after signing the book of condolence at Belfast City Hall in remembrance of murdered journalist Lyra McKee 

"The Creggan community doesn't need any more chaos in their midst," he said.

He added: "The last thing Creggan needs is another march on Monday leading to possible confrontation. That would be so irresponsible and serve no useful purpose."

The Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee later said it would cancel the march.

  Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry

Bishop McKeown later said there was a "deep air of sadness" in Derry on Good Friday.

"The murder of journalist Lyra McKee is causing widespread shock and revulsion," he said. 

"Our first thoughts and prayers are with Ms McKee’s family and friends who are terribly grieved by her killing."

He said the city had stood together following several nights of rioting in July last year.

"I repeat my call from the Unity of Purpose rally on Fahan Street that destruction and aggression end up damaging the very communities that some people claim to be defending," he said.

"You cannot claim to love your country and, at the same time, cause death and pain to the people who live here.  All who live here deserve to be cherished equally.

"That spirit of coming together against violence has brought us a long way in the last twenty years.  

"It will continue today for we believe the original Good Friday message that love is stronger than hatred."

Archbishop Eamon Martin urged people to pray for Ms McKee's family and friends.

He described the journalist's death as "pointless" and "violent".

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Charles McMullen said Ms McKee's killing was "unjustifiable".

"The devastating news that greeted us this morning, on this particular day – Good Friday – would have been news of the worst kind for the family of Lyra McKee, and I offer my sincere condolences to them, and prayers for them, at this awful time," he said.

"It is also not only a tragic day for the City of Londonderry, it is a tragedy for society as a whole.

"What happened last night was rooted in a past that has absolutely no place in the present, or future, as it was a totally appalling, outrageous and unjustifiable act by those who have nothing to offer anyone."

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