Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster 'wasn't embarrassed into standing' after priest's Lyra McKee funeral address

A videograb from BBC footage shows politicians at Lyra McKee's funeral gradually joining mourners in a standing ovation

Arlene Foster said she contacted Fr Martin Magill hours after his address at the funeral of Lyra McKee to congratulate him on his "powerful message".

The DUP leader told BBC Radio Ulster this morning that she was not embarrassed by Fr Magill's challenge to politicians.

The west Belfast parish priest received a standing ovation at the funeral of murdered journalist Ms McKee in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast yesterday when he asked mourners why it had taken the killing to unite political parties.

"Why in God's name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?" he asked.

Asked if Fr Magill's comments had forced her to join the standing ovation, Mrs Foster replied: "No, not at all."

"I think it was a very powerful moment," she said.

Read more: Lyra McKee funeral hears priest challenge politicians


he said it took her several seconds to stand up because of where she was positioned in the cathedral.

"I was standing at the front of everybody," she said.

"I wasn't aware of what was happening behind me until later and neither, to be fair, were others in front of me.

"This isn't about how we react in a place of God to this sort of thing. I think what is important is what happens next."


Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry last Thursday

She said she contacted the priest after the funeral.

"I spoke to Fr Magill last night to congratulate him on his powerful message and his very clear message," she said.

"I think it's one that we all listened to very carefully and indeed the whole service yesterday was one of messages for everyone in that cathedral whether it was from the word of God, from Matthew and from John, talking about comfort for everyone who was grieving or whether it was from Lyra's friend talking about her life or indeed from her sister talking about Lyra as she grew up in Belfast.

"I thought it was a hugely moving service and we shouldn't take away from the fact that whilst all of these messages come out, yesterday was a day of great grief for her family and friends and that should be the primary reason why people went there yesterday."


Fr Martin Magill with his book about the story of the Poor Clare community in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Mrs Foster said that during canvassing for the local government elections voters had clearly told her they wanted Stormont to be restored.

"They want devolution back and that shouldn't be any great surprise to any of us," she said.

"They have wanted devolution back since it was torn down.

Arlene Foster attending the funeral of Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast

"I have said in the past, and I make that plea again today, that we should get devolution back up again and running to deal with all of the issues that people are so concerned about on a day by day basis whether it's hospital waiting lists or getting their child a school place or indeed dealing with a whole range of issues.

"Let us get back in and deal with those issues and have a parallel process to deal with those matters which Sinn Féin want to raise and we will deal with that in a parallel... time-limited process."

The funeral of Lyra McKee who was murdered in Derry. Picture by Mal McCann

Mrs Foster said she is hopeful Sinn Féin will agree to the parallel process.

"That offer was first made in August 2017," she said. "We are now a year-and-a-half forward. There is huge frustration in our society."

She said Sinn Féin's refusal to agree to a parallel process would be to "put their demands" above the needs of the people of Northern Ireland.

"That would be putting their demands before the people of Northern Ireland, the people of Northern Ireland have many demands as well," she said.

"As I said to Fr Magill last night when I was speaking to him," she said.

"He will not find me wanting when it comes to trying to get things back up and running again because that is what I want and it is what the people that I represent want."


She said she wanted an inclusive executive and said all five parties should take part in any talks process under secretary of state Karen Bradley.

Mrs Foster said she did not want the outcome of any talks to simply be a "win/lose scenario".

"Northern Ireland wants to have a power-sharing executive that everybody has a stake in, not just one community or one party," she said.

"We have always said it's not a balanced agreement if Sinn Féin get everything that they want and people in my community are left with nothing.

"The red line is that we can't have a 5-0 situation for Sinn Féin."

She added: "It has to be a balanced agreement so let us move forward in a parallel process and seek that balanced agreement."

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