Northern Ireland news

Crowds gather in Cathedral Quarter to support family of murdered journalist Lyra McKee

The funeral of Lyra McKee who was murdered in Derry Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

The normally buzzing Cathedral Quarter in Belfast fell silent with grief yesterday as around 1,000 mourners gathered in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

While family and close friends of the 29-year-old were joined in St Anne's Cathedral by dignitaries and politicians, for a Service of Thanksgiving for the writer, around one thousand more people gathered outside to pay their respects in their own personal way.

Preparations for the 1pm service had been under way from around 7am yesterday when lines of crowd control barriers were put in place outside St Anne's Cathedral and further along up Donegall Street, the route along which Lyra's remains were to travel.

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Just hours before the service, workers could be seen outside sweeping up and power washing the entrance to the cathedral as news crews from America and England set up early across the road in Writer's Square.

Mourners, while dressed solemnly in black, were also wearing or holding Harry Potter-themed scarves, cloaks and jackets in honour of Lyra, who was a fan of author, JK Rowling.

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

Many other attendees opted for flags and scarves in the Pride colours or Marvel-themed t-shirts, bearing images of the Avengers and Wonder Woman, seen as a nod to Lyra's love of superheroes.

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As the young woman's remains arrived outside St Anne's Cathedral, the crowd outside burst into spontaneous applause in front of the world's media. The hearse carrying Lyra's coffin also carried a number of colourful wreaths including one which read `Team Lyra'.

Those who had made their way to the Cathedral Quarter had made the journey for their own personal reasons, some believing Lyra's tragic death could be a much-needed catalyst for change in Northern Ireland.

Read more: Lyra McKee funeral hears priest challenge politicians

Among them was Lesley Keenan, who brought her four-month-old daughter, Eimer with her.

Having just moved her family back to Northern Ireland, including her partner and their almost-three-year-old daughter, from Brisbane, the mother-of-two said she wanted to come to the funeral to send out a message.

"We have just moved back here from Australia after 10 years thinking things had got better and it has not," she said.

"It is shocking. I am seriously re-considering my decision to move back here. If I do decide to stay, I can not have this for my children".

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Lynda McCleery from north Belfast said she had come to the funeral to "show support for Lyra".

"I think it is a disgrace the way politics is in Northern Ireland," she said.

"There seems to still be some negative forces in this country. I wanted to come here because we have to show in numbers we feel for her and her family and we want politicians to know they have to get their act together. It was really dreadful".

A silence fell over the crowd as Fr Martin Magill delivered powerful words from inside the cathedral asking the norths's politicians why it had taken the "death of a 29-year-old woman, with her whole life in front of her" to prompt change in the north.

He received further applause when he told them that the next generation needed "not a gun in their hands" rather, jobs, better health service and education.

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