Lyra honoured with prolonged applause at vigil

A photo of Lyra McKee during an NUJ vigil for Lyra McKee at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

The death of a journalist doing their job should not be marked with silence and so Lyra McKee was honoured with prolonged applause and cheers.

In a fitting farewell fellow journalists, friends, activists, and members of the LGBT community remembered Lyra through her own words at vigil in Dublin’s city centre this evening.

“The ceasefire babies was what they called us. Destined to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us,” she had written.

Now, after her death, the powerful lines penned by Ms McKee resonate even stronger and drew emotion when they were read out to the crowd who gathered to pay tribute and to celebrate her life and legacy.

Although Lyra’s generation were too young to remember the worst of the Troubles “because we were either in nappies or just out of them” when the Provisional IRA ceasefire was called, as she put it herself, the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it has brought did not save the journalist.

People listen to speeches during the vigil before breaking out into applause instead of holding a minute’s silence (Niall Carson/PA)
People listen to speeches during the vigil before breaking out into applause instead of holding a minute’s silence (Niall Carson/PA)

Large rainbow flags caught the evening sunshine as those who carried them led the procession to the steps of the Hugh Lane Gallery, while others in the crowd held candles and pictures of Ms McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans in Derry last Thursday.

“We gather in anger at the death of our friend and the murder of our friend,” said Seamus Dooley secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Ireland.

“We gather in anger at those who seek to claim our streets and to disrespect our democracy.”

His reference to a march by a republican group on the streets of Dublin over the weekend and the fact that such acts should not be tolerated drew support from those attending.

Mr Dooley added: “Tonight we also gather in celebration of a feminist, an activist, a daughter, a sister, a lover, a journalist, a remarkable human being, a kind, compassionate, funny and caring person.

He described the 29-year-old as a person who brought light and laughter wherever she went, even as often she was angry, frustrated, and “mad as hell” at those who refused to move at the pace she wished.

The emotions of the crowd gathered in the shadow of the Garden of Remembrance jarred with the bright spring evening as the birds sang out and the sun turned the buildings golden.

NUJ officials and members of the public during an NUJ vigil for Lyra McKee at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney / Collins
NUJ officials and members of the public during an NUJ vigil for Lyra McKee at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Grainne Healy, co-director of the 2015 Yes Equality Campaign, read out Lyra’s ‘A letter to my 14-year-old self’ and there was music and song to honour her short life.

Gloria, Dublin’s gay and lesbian choir sang ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ before Mr Dooley encouraged the crowd to mark Ms McKee’s life with applause for as long and as hard as they could.

Her funeral takes place at 1pm tomorrow in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast and will be attended by President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who travelled to Belfast today to met with political parties in a bid to get Stormont up and running again, will also attend, as will Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.

The service will be led jointly by Dean of St Anne’s Stephen Forde and Catholic priest Fr Martin Magill.

A GoFundMe page set up to help Ms McKee’s family has already received more than €60,000 and, as well as covering the funeral costs, the NUJ now hope to set up a bursary for an outstanding journalist in Ms McKee’s honour.

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