Northern Ireland news

Mural tribute to Lyra McKee appears in Belfast

A mural of murdered journalist Lyra McKee in Kent Street, Belfast Picture by Mal McCann.

A MURAL of murdered journalist Lyra McKee has been painted in central Belfast.

The poignant image was created by Dublin artist Emma Blake. She and 21 other artists blanketed most of Kent Street in new artwork over the bank holiday weekend as part of the annual Hit the North street art festival. Her mural of the 29-year-old Belfast author, who was shot dead by dissident republicans during rioting in Derry last month, was already drawing visitors on Monday, with people stopping to take photographs.

The image is painted alongside the words of a powerful letter she wrote to her 14-year-old self. The letter, which has gained worldwide prominence since her death, spoke of her struggles as a gay teenager in Northern Ireland. It contained the message: “It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better” – words that have assumed added resonance since her murder.

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The location of the mural is also significant, as it faces an existing artwork that provided a striking backdrop for a photograph of Ms McKee that was widely circulated in days after she was killed.

Hit the North festival organiser Adam Turkington said Blake had been moved by Ms McKee’s death and wanted to pay tribute. He highlighted the prominent role art has played in the response to the shooting, noting the protest in Derry that saw friends of Ms McKee place red handprints on an office building used by dissident s and the painting over of IRA murals near the murder scene.

“Writing on a wall is always political, whether you realise it or not,” he said.

“I think what’s been really interesting is how you’ve seen that the aftermath of Lyra’s death has played out in art on walls – whether it’s the bloody handprints on the office walls or whether it’s people painting over the IRA murals in Derry. That’s activism.

“Street art has its roots in activism and in antiestablishmentism but also in finding ways to communicate with each other about things that really are hard to talk about.

“It’s about aesthetic, it’s about place-making and especially in the context of Northern Ireland, where we have these very divisive murals, street art for me in this context is all about building a shared space and finding a place that people can coexist.”


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