'A senseless loss of life': Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, shot dead during riots in Derry

'A senseless loss of life': Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, shot dead during riots in Derry
Lyra McKee. Photo: LinkedIn.

Latest: Dissident republican group the New IRA was responsible for shooting dead a journalist in Northern Ireland, police have said.

Lyra McKee, 29, was shot in the head in what police are treating as a “terrorist incident”, amid disturbances in Derry yesterday evening, and died later in hospital.

PSNI officers were carrying out a search operation in the Creggan area of Derry aimed at disrupting dissident republicans ahead of this weekend’s commemoration of Irish independence, when a situation developed during which more than 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers and two cars were hijacked and set on fire.

During the unrest a gunman fired a number of shots at police, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said.

He said: “Lyra McKee, 29 years old, was wounded. She was taken away in a police Land Rover to Altnagelvin Hospital but unfortunately she has died there.

“We have now launched a murder inquiry here in the city.

“We believe this to be a terrorist act, we believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans, our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry.

This is a horrendous act, it is unnecessary, it is uncalled for, it is totally unjustified.

It is understood Ms McKee had recently moved to Derry to live with her partner.

She worked as an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry.

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of their 30 under 30 in media. She had been working on a new book which had been due to be published in 2020.

'A senseless loss of life': Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, shot dead during riots in Derry

Tributes have been paid to Ms McKee, who was set to become a published author later this year.

Matthew Hughes said he had been left “devastated” by the death of one of his closest friends.

“I just received the heartbreaking news that my friend @LyraMcKee was murdered tonight in a terrorist incident in Derry,” he tweeted.

“She was one of my closest friends. She was my mentor. She was a groomswoman at my wedding. I can’t imagine life without her, and yet now I must.”

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in 1984, said Ms McKee was a “kind, gentle, witty and stubborn soul”.

“I have just heard, that my lovely friend Lyra was murdered tonight in Derry. I just can’t believe, that this witty, clever human being has been taken… Feel sick.”

Fellow journalist Peter McGuire said Ms McKee was a “gifted writer, a kind person and SO generous with her time and knowledge”.

“So young – horrific & heartbreaking news from Derry tonight,” he tweeted.

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, wrote: “Shocked by news that woman shot dead in Derry last night has been named locally as @NUJofficial Lyra McKee.

“We are shocked by killing of a journalist of courage, style and integrity. Sympathy to her partner, family and many friends.”

Lilly Dancyger, a New York-based editor at digital publication Narratively, said Ms McKee was “dedicated to covering the lasting trauma & violence of the Troubles”.

“Devastating to hear she was killed tonight by that same violence,” she tweeted.

Ms Dancyger shared an article written by Ms McKee about the families of Troubles victims.

“I was Lyra’s editor on this story, and it was an honour. Sharing her work now is all I can think to do,” she said.

Writer Brooke Magnanti, whose blogs were made into TV hit Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, said she was “stunned” by the news.

She tweeted: “I only knew her from online and a phone conversations after we were introduced by @GlasgaeLauraLee; she struck me as a thoughtful journalist unafraid to challenge her own beliefs. Rare and precious. Deepest condolences to family and friends.”

'A senseless loss of life': Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, shot dead during riots in Derry

Earlier:'A senseless loss of life': Journalist, 29, shot dead during unrest in Derry named

A 29-year-old woman has died after shots were fired in Derry, with police in Northern Ireland treating the death as a “terrorist incident”.

The victim has been named as Lyra McKee, who was a journalist,

Police in Northern Ireland have launched a murder inquiry after her death in the Creggan area of the city amid unrest yesterday evening.

Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton, from the PSNI, told a press conference this morning that police believe the attack was carried out by "violent dissident republicans", adding: "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."

Petrol bombs were thrown and images from the scene show vehicles alight and others burnt out, with dissident republican terrorists suspected of being behind the attack.

The Press Association has seen mobile phone footage purporting to be from the scene, showing at least two shots being fired before a distant scream can be heard.

“They’ve shot someone up there,” a male voice says on another clip, which has not been verified.

Armed police in Creggan, Derry (Niall Carson/PA)
Armed police in Creggan, Derry (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Hamilton said a murder inquiry had been launched after the death.

He said: “Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed.

“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder inquiry.”

Armed police at the scene of unrest in Creggan, Derry (Niall Carson/PA
Armed police at the scene of unrest in Creggan, Derry (Niall Carson/PA

Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists said the organisation was “shocked by (the) killing of a journalist of courage, style and integrity”.

Journalist Leona O’Neill said she was at the scene of the killing.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “I was standing beside this young woman when she fell beside a police Land Rover tonight in Creggan #Derry.

“I called an ambulance for her but police put her in the back of their vehicle and rushed her to hospital where she died. Just 29 years old. Sick to my stomach tonight.”

The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement

The unrest comes ahead of the Easter weekend where republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a time when dissidents are traditionally active.

Politicians have widely condemned the killing.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the killing in Derry was a “senseless loss of life”.

She said: “I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.

“The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.

“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.

“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.”

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster tweeted: “Heartbreaking news. A senseless act. A family has been torn apart.

“Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019.

“No one wants to go back. My thoughts are also with the brave officers who stood in defence of their community.”

Gary Middleton, a DUP former deputy mayor of Derry City Council and current Member of the Legislative Assembly, tweeted: “Disgraceful scenes of violence in the Creggan estate tonight.

“PSNI and members of the public being put in danger by unrepresentative thugs intent on destroying communities.”

Mark H Durkan, SDLP MLA for Foyle, said he was left “heartbroken and angry” by the killing.

“Just leaving Creggan, heartbroken and angry at the senseless loss of a young life,” he tweeted.

“Violence (only creates victims, that’s all it ever has done. The thoughts and prayers of our city are with the young woman’s family and friends, may she rest in peace.”

- Press Association

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