The murder of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, in Derry on Thursday night raises so many issues, is such an affront to humanity and our democracy, that it is very difficult to offer a composed response yet that is how we must react.
That does not preclude an assertion of this Republic’s legitimacy and our peaceful relationship with Northern Ireland, one endorsed 21 years ago yesterday when the majority of people on this island voted to support Good Friday Peace Agreement.
The first reaction, however, must be to offer deep sympathy to her partner, her family, her friends, and her colleagues. That sympathy must be extended to the communities she worked in as they seem, once again, in the tightening grip of dark, violent and immoral forces that have assumed a mandate that simply does not exist.
Lyra McKee may be the most recent victim, but as was the case in every cycle of violent, physical-force “nationalism”, the terrorists are a threat to the stability sought and enjoyed by every peace-loving democrat on this island. Our response should be commensurate with that sad, almost inescapable reality.
That is just one the complexities in this recurring nightmare. The overlap, the interchangeability of those who imagine terrorism justified and organised crime cannot be ignored either. There are so many instances of criminals draping themselves in the green flag, the red, white and blue one too, that it must influence our response. After all, it is believed that republican terrorists rented military-grade weapons to a Dublin drug gang for one of this country’s most audacious murders.
Speaking after Thursday’s murder, assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton recalled a warning the PSNI offered in January:
Thursday night’s choreographed rioting — what else was it? — when a gunman fired towards police and murdered Ms McKee, validate that position as did the car bomb outside Derry’s courthouse in January.
These acts of terrorism are carried out by evil individuals but they need a culture, a Petri-dish community to support them. They cannot exist without at least the tacit support of those around them whether that is freely given or not.
That Stormont has been redundant for more than two years helps create an atmosphere where that support is far easier to find than in an environment served by a functioning parliament.
The contrived suspension of Stormont, and those who sustain the divisions facilitating that children’s huff, have very real questions to answer over Ms McKay’s death. Those who advocate Brexit and its inevitable economic challenges have further questions to answer.
This Holy Week murder raises another enduring and fundamental question. Can wearing an Easter Lily be reasonably be seen as anything but an endorsement of the killer who brought guns onto the streets of Derry this week?
There seems little enough wriggle room in that question and the answer seems all too obvious in the face of yet another utterly wasted life. Yet again, ambiguity is not an option.