Lyra's killers 'no better than paedophiles', says her partner

Lyra McKee's partner has said that those who killed the woman she was going to marry are "no better than paedophiles".

Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on Derry’s Creggan estate on April 18.

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News in England, Sara Canning reacts to the apologies from Saoradh and the New IRA, and reveals that she was supposed to get engaged today in Central Park.

She also revealed that at Lyra's funeral she told British Prime Minister Theresa May that she had been "derelict in her duty to Northern Ireland" by saying abortion and gay marriage were a devolved matter.

The British government, Ms Canning says, have to do better. She also took aim at Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, and Northern Ireland's politicians Arlene Foster and Michelle O Neill, in a powerful and wide-ranging interview with Channel 4 News' Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson:

On the night the journalist and published author was shot dead by a member of the New IRA, Ms Canning said: “It’s been almost three weeks. I’ve not come to terms with it. I still expect to hear from her every morning. I expect to wake up beside her, and I don’t. You know …

"The phone was out she was clicking away, she was texting, she was ringing. She’d gone into reporter mode.

"We were only there in total eight minutes. That’s what the police have told us, from the minute we arrived, to the minute it happened, it’s eight minutes."

Describing the moment Lyra was shot in the head, Sara thought originally that her partner had accidentally stumbled.

She said: "Well, initially, I… Lyra was clumsy, and I thought she’d tripped over her own feet… and I looked down, and I knew straight away that she hadn’t tripped.

"And then I noticed that she had a head wound and I put my hand to it and I started screaming for help.”

She then issued a message to the killers, saying they were "no better than paedophiles".

Sara said: “It was so indiscriminate. There was no regard for human life. Why are we protecting that? And if it is your child, I would be ashamed to have a child that had done that. I’d be ashamed.

"They took away an amazing person. I’ve lost the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. I was supposed to get engaged today in Central Park. We’d planned the rest of our lives together and in one split second some idiot with a gun took that away.

She then revealed that Lyra had made lots of plans for the day she was supposed to get engaged.

Sara said: “She had planned a really elaborate proposal at a lake house, on the lake in Central Park. Which one of her best friends Kelsey has helped her plan. They had a pdf file and everything. They’d gone, [into] really minute detail.

"It was incredibly romantic, and she was such a thoughtful person. She put her heart and soul into everything for everybody.

"She was always making sure that people were okay and wanted to make everything as perfect as she could. She was really good at planning. She wasn’t great at keeping things a secret. But she was great at planning.”

She went on to say that the "mealy-mouthed apologies" by Saoradh and the New IRA were "absolutely pathetic".

She said: "And then the mealy-mouthed apologies and back-tracking and absolutely pathetic statements that were issued by Saoradh the New IRA. You can’t apologise for killing someone. You can’t call it an accidental shooting.

"You fire a gun at a crowd, that’s not an accidental shooting. You’re aiming to shoot someone."

"I mean, it’s ridiculous. They’re not defending anyone. They’re literally a scourge on their communities. They’re a scourge. They are a scourge.

She went on to claim that the dissidents are a danger to their local communities, since they are "grooming" them for a life of violence.

She said: "What I would say is, and this might be heavy-handed, and people might speak out against it or whatever. But I don’t really care – they are grooming young men and women.

"They’re no better, they speak out about paedophile gangs, but they’re no better than paedophiles.

"They literally take young people who are disenfranchised at the best of times, who are living in poverty, who don’t see a future for themselves in Northern Ireland because there is literally very little here for them.

"And they tell them that the way forward is a gun in their hand. The way forward is never a gun in your hand.”

Turning her anger towards politicians in the North, Ms Canning said she told Karen Bradley that she was doing a "pretty terrible job as the Secretary of State".

She said: “At that stage I had looked at who was in the room and I kind of saw red a little bit. So when I was speaking to Leo Varadkar, and I said you need to facilitate these people sitting down at a table.

"And so I’m putting my trust in you – you’re a world leader, and you have a presence here. You need to use it for good.

"So when I turned from Leo Varadkar, it was Karen Bradley, Secretary of State. Karen Bradley offered her condolences and I accepted them graciously. And I wasn’t rude. But I did tell her that she was doing a pretty terrible job as the Secretary of State.

"Her lack of knowledge around Northern Ireland was appalling. She needed to go and educate herself. How on earth she had taken a job where she had no knowledge of the area"

"She was very gracious I have to say. She nodded and she agreed with me that she had said things that were completely misguided and that she’s gone and educated herself.

Ms Canning used Mrs Bradley's comments on Bloody Sunday as an example of her appalling knowledge of the Troubles.

Mrs Bradley’s remarks in the Commons in March, that killings carried out by the police and military during the Troubles were not crimes, rather the actions of people “fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”, sparked fury among some victims and political parties.

Ms Canning said: "As a Derry woman, I had to say to her, to offer your condolences on Lyra when you have turned around and said that soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday were doing their job in a dignified manner.

"I said they are no different to the thug that opened fire in Creggan on Holy Thursday and shot Lyra.”

Ms Canning then expanded on how she told British Prime Minister Theresa May that she was neglecting her duties to the people of the North by not getting involved on issues around abortion and gay marriage.

Sara said: “So I basically told her that she was massively derelict in her duties to Northern Ireland and successive governments have [been]. It’s not just been the Tory government.

"To tell us that issues like gay marriage and abortion rights are a devolved matter is completely out of order. We’re not a devolved state anymore. We’re completely unsuccessful.

"It has been shown that we can’t work together –so the British government has to be our government. And they have to be our voice and they have to do better. So, that was basically the message that I left with the Prime Minister.”

She finished by saying that politicians need to look beyond the red lines if they want to secure a stable future for the North.

She said: “What I want is, the leaders of the parties, they want broadly the same things. There are red lines and I think we need to look beyond red lines at the minute. Same-sex marriage and an Irish language act are important.

"They are important don’t get me wrong but what’s more important is having a working government who are doing what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland. Because we are, we’ve been left adrift.

"There’s people missing out on operations and there’s schools missing out on funding. There’s head teachers having to go out and buy toilet roll for their primary schools, because they don’t have the funds to do that.”

More on this topic

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Man arrested by detectives investigating murder of Lyra McKee released

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