'Your time is over, your time is up'
There was palpable revulsion and shock in the air as hundreds gathered in the wake of the murder of Lyra McKee, to send a united message to her killers: ‘Not in Our Name.’
Unionist and nationalist, activist and journalist stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Creggan and of Derry as they registered their opposition and paid their respects at two vigils in Creggan and Guildhall Square on Friday. The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, was among those who gave voice to the powerful message to the large attendance at a few hours notice.
The vigils in Derry would be followed by others across Ireland over the weekend, as tributes were paid to Lyra from friends, colleagues and people who only came by the woman and her work in the wake of her horrific murder by the hand of a dissident republican gunman on Thursday night.
Many of those gathered at the vigils stated that Lyra’s death must not be in vain and there were more than a few who remarked that the presence of DUP leader Arlene Foster in Creggan alongside Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance leader Naomi Long and UUP Councillor Mary Hamilton seemed to signal a significant shift on the political landscape.
Addressing the crowds, the DUP leader received applause when she said: “This is not the first time I have been in this wonderful city, but it is the first time I have been in this part of this wonderful city. And why did I come today? I came to stand in solidarity with all of the people that are here.
“I want to say your pain is my pain; it doesn’t matter whether you are a Catholic or a Protestant, whether you identify as Irish or British, when people come out with guns to shoot people in their own community, then we have to say, Enough is enough.”
Mary Lou McDonald, hoisting the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ flag, meanwhile, said: “I carry this flag for Lyra - an activist, a journalist, a child of the Peace Process and a woman who should not have lost her life at the age of 29. I carry this flag for Sara, her partner; I carry this flag for her family; for all of us who believe in an open, inclusive, tolerant, modern new Derry in a new Ireland.”
She said those gathered should send a message and “say to those who perpetrated this gross act of violence against the people of Derry and the people of Ireland and I say this as a republican on Good Friday, as a republican who will proudly stand on Easter Sunday and celebrate our tradition, I say to those people that your time is over, that your time is up.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was applauded as he said: “I want to make something very very clear: the enemies of Derry are not the police officers that put Lyra into the back of a Landrover, drove through a burning barricade to try to save her life; the enemies of this city are the people who fired that gun. They need to hear very, very clearly today, your time is over. We own this Peace Process, we are not giving up on this Peace Process, we are going to keep moving forward no matter how hard you try to stop us.
“Our politics has failed and we have to fix it. We have to take the poison out of our conversation and we have to begin to start moving back together again. That’s the best message we can send those people. We are not going down into the gutter with them, we are going to rise up and walk together again.”
Alliance leader Naomi Long vowed that she and her colleagues would “stand with you each night as you face down what is happening in this community, as you try to protect your young people and as you try to move forward in that. “You have our support 245/7,” she said, adding that the “real voice” of Derry’s youth were the young school pupils she met in Creggan recently who “more than anything wanted peace.”
UUP Colr. Mary Hamilton, who was injured in the Claudy bombing in 1972, extended her party’s sincere sympathy to Lyra’s family and partner, “because as someone who knows, their life will never be the same, but we just pray - we have said this so many times - that this will be the last time we will be meeting at something like this.”
In a joint statemen, Independent Councillors Gary Donnelly, Paul Gallagher, Warren Robinson, Darren O’Reilly and Sean Carr condemned the killing.
They said: “As a collective of independent councillors we are shocked and saddened by the senseless and reckless act that led to the death of esteemed activist and journalist Lyra McKee.
“To her partner, her family, her friends and her colleagues we offer our heartfelt sympathy. Lyra was often in attendance at many events held across the Derry and Strabane Council area supporting grass roots activism and highlighting social injustices.
“We feel that following the previous five years of our working successfully within council offering an effective alternative model of opposition we now need to call for calm, for leadership and for support for the community that is suffering and who’s hearts are sore as we reflect on this tragic loss.
“As republicans and socialists we need to reflect on the events that led to Lyra’s death. We must by our actions both collectively and individually ensure that this politically indefensible act is not repeated and that no other family has to endure this suffering.”