Northern Ireland news

New IRA admits murder of journalist Lyra McKee and offers 'sincere apologies'

Friends of Lyra McKee yesterday protested at the Derry office of Saoradh, a political group linked to the New IRA, by placing red handprints on the building's wall. Free Derry Corner's famous mural has been adapted in recent days to reflect anger over Ms McKee's murder 
Connla Young

THE paramilitary group blamed for shooting dead Lyra McKee in Derry last night apologised for the murder of the 29-year-old journalist.

Ms McKee was shot in the head during rioting in the Creggan last Thursday night.

The gunman was aiming at police during disturbances in the Creggan following police raids when he hit the 29-year-old.

In a statement to The Irish News, using a recognised codeword, the group admitted it was responsible for the attack.

“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces," the statement said.

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“The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”

The group, which formed in 2012, also accused police of “provoking” the rioting that preceded the gun attack that killed Ms McKee.

“On Thursday night, following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage,” it said.

The statement, which was signed T O'Neill, added: “We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this."

The statement followed calls from Saoradh, who are associated with the New IRA, for the organisation to apologise.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the statement was an absolute disgrace and showed no remorse for the death of Ms McKee.

"Their so-called instruction to their 'volunteers' to 'take the utmost care' when engaging in violence is utterly sickening and devoid of any humanity," he said.

"They must recognise the glaringly obvious fact they are not wanted by the people of the north. It is time to disband.

"The murder of Lyra McKee must not be in vain. Together, political leaders must come together to re-engage in a talks process to fill the vacuum that currently gives groups like this too much oxygen."

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said: "First, their spokespeople dismissed Lyra McKee's murder as an "accident". Now, the New IRA accept responsibility for her murder, while asking their members to be more careful when trying to murder people in future.

"To be clear, killing a police officer is every bit as wrong as killing a journalist. Both are there doing their job. Both of them have families who care about them. Neither deserve to be shot in cold blood.

With every statement they merely expose themselves further."

Speaking at a Saoradh commemoration in Belfast yesterday chairman Brian Kenna repeated the call for an apology.

Prominent Belfast member Dee Fennell made a similar call during an address outside the General Post Office in Dublin on Saturday.

There has been growing anger since the murder on Thursday. A planned Easter parade in Derry on Saturday was cancelled.

A spokesman for Saoradh issued a statement which they said they received from the Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee.

It said: “The Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee have opted to cancel this Easter Monday’s annual Easter Commemoration as a mark of respect for the tragic and accidental killing of Lyra McKee.

"Our sympathy extends to the family, friends and loved ones of this innocent woman.”

While no parade took place, it is understood that a wreath laying ceremony did take place in the City Cemetery yesterday.

Two teenagers arrested after the attack that claimed the journalist's life have since been released. A 57-year-old woman has today been arrested in connection with Ms McKee's death under the Terrorism Act.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly last night was critical of the apology.

“The people of Derry have spoken with one voice and that is to reject them and their evil deeds and to get off their backs,” she said.

“The blame for Lyra's murder lies squarely with the person who pulled the trigger and those who sent him out on the street.”

Mr Kelly called on the group to end its armed campaign.

“If they are truly remorseful they would end their campaign and pursue their objectives in a democratic manner and face the people accordingly.”

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