A 29-year-old journalist was shot dead in Northern Ireland on Thursday night in what police called “a terrorist incident.”
Lyra McKee was fatally struck by gunfire at around 11 p.m. during a riot in Derry/Londonderry. She was hit by shots that an unidentified gunman fired at police during the “orchestrated violence,” according to Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Officers took McKee to hospital in a back of a Land Rover, but “she died from her injuries,” Hamilton said in a statement Friday. The shooter remained at large.
Friends, colleagues, politicians, readers and other journalists flooded Twitter with tributes to McKee, whose 2014 heartfelt blog post went viral in which she detailed growing up as gay and coming out to her mother.
“The death of Lyra McKee in last night’s suspected terrorist incident in Londonderry is shocking and truly senseless. My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues. She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage.” – PM @theresa_may
Seamus Dooley, the Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said McKee was a journalist “of courage, style and integrity.”
McKee’s stories on the fallout from years of violence in Northern Ireland were featured by numerous international news sites, including BuzzFeed.
She inked a two-book deal with publishing house Faber in 2018. Her first, titled “The Lost Boys,” documented the disappearance of children during the Troubles, per a statement released at the time, which described her as a “rising star of investigative journalism.” It was slated for a 2020 release.
“Violent dissident republicans” are believed to be behind the violence, said Hamilton, the assistant chief constable. “Our assessment at this time would be that the New IRA is the most likely to be behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry,” he added.
Violence flared in the Creggan area of the city after police conducted searches for firearms and explosives, following intelligence that attacks were planned over Easter ― which the Belfast Telegraph notes is when “republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and dissidents are traditionally active.”
Hamilton said a crowd gathered around police at around 9 p.m. “and before long upwards of 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers. Two vehicles were also hijacked and set on fire.”
Around two hours later, Hamilton continued, about 100 people were in the area, “including young people and members of the media. It was around this time that the gunman fired a number of shots.”
A GoFundMe campaign to cover funeral expenses and provide a legacy for her family quickly reached its target of 20,000 British pounds (about $25,900) by early Friday. The effort was started by Padraig Reidy and Mike Harris, friends and fellow campaigners to reform libel law in Northern Ireland.
If you read nothing else today, read this letter Lyra McKee wrote to her 14 year old self. It is heartbreaking but life affirming…and leaves me wishing I’d had the chance to meet this brave young woman. RIP Lyra. https://t.co/YzIkdygfNC
A couple of years ago I told @LyraMcKee that she was one of those rare people that nobody could have a bad word about – a real connector, someone who’s nature we could aspire to. This is an absolute tragedy. RIP love x pic.twitter.com/utBSGh1wpS
Like a lot of people, I have spent the morning reading, watching and listening to the work of Lyra McKee. It’s impossible to compute that someone so vibrant, intelligent and full of promise has been taken so suddenly and senselessly. What a loss.
Happy memories of my friend #LyraMcKee . A dedicated daughter, sister, partner and such a loyal friend , through ups and downs.A gifted writer and as stubborn as they come. Never giving up and would have made a great lawyer with her questioning style 🙂 Gentle, kind and generous pic.twitter.com/UDyF2njzOH
Lyra McKee and I were long-time friends. She recognised no barriers to friendship except bigotry & badness. Her commitment & talent were about to bring her undreamt of success as a writer & she was in a loving relationship. What a sickening waste of a lovely, gifted human being!
#LyraMcKee, one of Belfast’s true characters. Gifted, driven and an absolute geg to be with – Lyra had that heaven-sent ability to chat with absolutely anyone and make them feel they were with a friend. All of her hard work was finally paying off too ffs. What a loss. pic.twitter.com/extxe9Fd0S
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