‘Be inspired by Lyra’ in Stormont negotiations

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley during a press conference at Stormont in Belfast. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Politicians have been urged to take inspiration from Lyra McKee ahead of fresh talks to restore power sharing at Stormont.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley confirmed that a new round of political talks aimed breaking the political deadlock will begin on May 7.

Announcing the talks, which he hopes will find a resolution by the middle of the summer, Mr Coveney said the “the excuses need to end”. He said: “We owe that to the memory of Lyra in particular, but to many others too.”

Negotiations will begin after local council elections in the North next week, and each of the main parties will be invited.

Mr Coveney stressed the importance of including all parties in the negotiations as he said previous talks, which were dominated by Sinn Féin and the DUP, were “frustrating”.

Speaking at the joint press conference, Ms Bradley said: “Lyra symbolised the new Northern Ireland and her tragic death cannot be in vain. All of us must take inspiration from what Lyra achieved in her life and work to make Northern Ireland a brighter, more peaceful and prosperous place for everyone.”

Responding to the announcement, Sinn Féin said they would be entering talks “positivity and optimistically”.

However, party leader Mary Lou McDonald remained firm that if the DUP, Sinn Féin, and other parties cannot break the political impasse which has left the North without and Assembly, it will be up to Leo Varadkar and Theresa May to resolve.

She said: “We want this to work, we want the outstanding issues to be resolved.

This is a big chance for us, I want us to avail of this chance, if it is a thing that these matters can’t be resolved through talks, then clearly the intergovernmental conference and the two governments will have to intervene. But let’s take it a step at a time.

Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Ms McKee’s murder was a “grim reminder” of the threat posed by “a micro group with no support”.

Speaking at a policing conference in Galway, Drew Harris said that since the “awful murder” in Derry last Thursday week he has been in “daily contact” with his counterparts in the PSNI.

Also attending the conference at NUIG, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said dissident republicans wanted to drag the island “back to a dark and bloody past”.

In his first public comments on the shooting dead of the 29-year-old journalist, Commissioner Harris said the threat level was still ranked as “severe” in Northern Ireland.

“I think the events of last week are a very grim reminder of the threat," he said. "We've seen the awful murder that happened on Thursday evening in Derry.

“We just don't want to see that at all. It is of the past.

"They are a micro group, they have no support and we and our colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland are determined to make sure we prevent these attacks and, when they do happen, we bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The New IRA has admitted it was responsible for the shooting of Ms McKee during a riot in the Creggan area.

Addressing the conference, organised by NUIG School of Law and the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Minister Flanagan said the “senseless and horrifying” killing of Lyra McKee was a tragic reminder of the “real and persistent security threat” from republican paramilitaries.

He said: “I send a clear message to those terrorists and their ‘fellow travellers’ – your hatred and violence have no place in our society. You do not act in our name.”

“Your wish to pull this island back to a dark and bloody past will not succeed because of the resolute commitment of the people of this island to peace, democracy and fundamental rights.”

The comments come as a leading historian on Irish republican groups tells the Irish Examiner today that the death of Ms McKee would not affect “in any way” the future actions of the New IRA.

- Additional reporting by Cormac O'Keeffe

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