On Good Friday 2019 an Angelus called us to pause. An Angelus of congregation in sadness and resolve following the unnecessary and sickening killing of Lyra McKee.
There is little extra condemnation that can be made in addition to that already stated, shouted, written and declared. But just like the Angelus, this is a pause to reflect. Reflect on a life that shone brightly and promised much, on a use of weapons in the context of a peace process under pressure and on the ways forward now.
People that knew Lyra McKee personally and professionally have written and spoken about a fire brand, an insistent that sought lesser told stories and demanded that they be written and heard. She was an advocate as well as an observer. The tragedy of a lost life and a lost voice for those who feel lost is incredibly sad and should motivate many of us to move wider into the space now left empty so at least ensure that lesser heard stories continue to be uncovered and recorded.
Those who took her life have written their own statement for their actions. It is a message that is as depressing as it is irrelevant. Our country has been engaged in the most concentrated period of debate and flux on the constitutional question since Partition and Saoradh and the “New IRA” are irrelevant to that. As writers, lawyers, feminists, trade unionists, politicians and citizens across this island engage in a discussion about the threat of Brexit, the unprecedented threat to the Good Friday Agreement and seek to build a consensus on building a shared united Ireland, these groups are invisible by choice.
They have been shooting people for alleged anti-social behaviour or drug offences, while at the same time their members stand accused of engaging in criminal activity themselves. There is evidence that many of the members of this cadre are themselves working as agents of the state. They shamefully use the unfinished business of the uniting of our country as a cloak of convenience for their own ends.
As the growing space for a united Ireland grows and consolidates it has become clear that the days of justification for military actions have long since passed. Our country will be built by those who campaign without fear for human rights for all citizens. Especially those who have had their rights denied, since Partition, including the LGBT community, the Irish language community, the victims and survivorscommunity, the women’s movement. Campaigns that have been siloed as well as silenced have all had their rights denied to them.
Lack of progress on those rights is the stumbling block to establishing the institutions and overcoming that block has proved impossible due to the dysfunctional Tory/DUP pact. And Brexit is playing the role of a poisonous gas in the trenches.
Saoradh and the “New IRA” have been absent and irrelevant during the past number of years in those debates. None of us should conflate what happened in Derry this Easter with the progressive and essential debates happening on our island right now. To do so is opportunistic messing.
The PSNI needs to ensure effective, independent investigation into Lyra McKee’s murder, while the rest of us must resolve to protect the Good Friday Agreement, the rights of all citizens and the legitimacy of peaceful, democratic change.