The family of murdered journalist Lyra McKee have spoken of how she was a strong woman with a "warm and innocent heart" as they prepare to lay her to rest in Belfast later today.
In a statement issued through their solicitiors, the family thanked everyone who has expressed their condolences and spoke of how they hoped Lyra's life and dedication to overcoming hatred and intolerance with love and kindness would serve as an examnple to others.
Lyra McKee was shot and killed by a New IRA gunman during a night of disturbances in the Creggan area of Derry on Thursday night. Her funeral is due to take place at St Anne's Cathedral in her native Belfast at 1pm.
Her family stated: “On Thursday 18th April our beautiful Lyra was taken from us. A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, a partner, a niece, a cousin, and above all, a best friend and confidante to so many of us.
"A friend to all, a gentle innocent soul who wouldn’t wish ill on anyone. Such a warm and innocent heart, she was the greatest listener, someone who had time for everyone. She was a smart, strong-minded woman who believed in passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth. Lyra spoke to and made friends with anybody and everybody, no matter what their background, those of all political views and those with none. This openness, and her desire to bring people together, made her totally apolitical.
"We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love we have witnessed this past few days. It has been of immense solace that Lyra meant so much to so many. We ask everyone who knew Lyra to continue her message of positivity and hope, by respecting her memory with dignity and respect. We as a family know that the whole community has been touched by the events of Thursday night and that many are rightly angry. However, we would ask that Lyra’s life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us all as we face this tragedy together. Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness."
They added: "We are a private family and would ask as a family that our privacy is respected at this impossibly difficult time. We will, in time, speak to you all, but need space and time in the coming days and weeks to deal with the trauma of Lyra’s sudden tragic death. Until that time, we would request that all media contact could be made via our legal representatives.”