Newry, Mourne and Down Council Cllr Pete Byrne has spoken out on the death of Belfast Journalist Lyra McKee.

The young Journalist who was killed in Derry last night during rioting was a panellist at "What does Equality Mean to You" an event organised by SDLP LGBT+ in the Canal Court Hotel as part of Pride in Newry in 2016. Lyra was a regular visitor to Newry for the annual Pride in Newry festivities.

Cllr Pete Byrne who was also a panellist at the event commented on Facebook "This morning I am angry. Angry at the senseless loss of life in Derry last night. Lyra McKee was a beautiful human being. I had the pleasure of meeting her three years ago at our Pride in Newry event, it was my first panel discussion as a local Councillor. An event where we both spoke openly about our personal experience of equality. Something I thought I'd never do but Lyra's caring nature and honest contribution helped me immensely and has stayed with me since.

Lyra McKee speaking at the 2016 Pride in Newry event with Matthew Corr and Cllr Pete Byrne.
Lyra McKee speaking at the 2016 Pride in Newry event with Matthew Corr and Cllr Pete Byrne.

"Those who robbed her of life, robbed us all. The cowards that done this must be brought to justice. Time and time again this island has rejected violence, that is never going to change. A generation that hasn’t known violence is fast losing its innocence, we must bring an end to this. Lyra was a change maker and we must never forget the contribution she has made to our society. A society that will spend this Good Friday trying to come to terms with this utterly tragic and senseless loss. My thoughts are with her family and friends this morning"

Cllr Liz Kimmins also spoke out on Facebook "Absolutely heartbreaking - the idiots behind this have nothing to offer our communities, thinking of the family and friends of Lyra McKee at this terrible time" while fellow Cllr Vallerie Harte simply added "Not in my name"

Danny Kennedy, UUP candidate for the European Election also expressed his condemnation "The murder of Lyra McKee is a truly sickening event without any justification. Every effort must be made to apprehend those responsible but this is truly heartbreaking for the family & friends of Lyra and I offer my sincere sympathy"

Lyra was a member of the Belfast and District National Union of Journalism and Gerry Carson, branch chair who is also Chair of the Union’s Irish Executive Council expressed condolences on behalf of the branch.

He said: “ Lyra was one of the new breed of young and enthusiastic journalists, always pushing the boundaries.
On May 4 Lyra was due to speak at an event to mark World Press Freedom Day hosted by Amnesty International at Queens Film Theatre - a panel discussion following a showing of the film on the life of murdered journalist Marie Colvin.

She was a firm supporter of our branch. and our thoughts are with her family and friends."

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Assistant General Secretary, added: “Lyra McKeen was a journalist of courage, style and integrity. She was a woman of great commitment and passion. I have no doubt that it was that commitment which led to her presence on the streets of the Creggan last night, observing a riot situation in the city. She had tweeted just minutes before being hit by a bullet. She had also spoken to a journalist colleague from the riot scene.”

“For many people their first introduction to her work was Lyra’s piece about growing up gay in Belfast, ‘Letter To My 14 Year-Old Self’, which was subsequently turned into a powerful short film.

“In 2016, she was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in media in Europe, a prediction she dismissed with typical good humour.

“After working in the Belfast Telegraph Lyra enjoyed the freedom of being a freelance journalist and was developing a growing international audience for her work. She worked hard and was noted for her determination.

“This killing serves as a reminder of the ongoing instability in Northern Ireland and must serve as a reminder to those in positions of political leadership to end the political deadlock. Our thoughts are also with the members of the PSNI, especially those who came to Lyra’s assistance after she had been struck by a bullet.”

Edit 11.45am

Condemnation from local political figures continues.

Cllr Gary Stokes simply said "I had the privilege of working with Lyra a number of years ago. She was a joy to be around. So very very sad."

Cllr Michael Savage added "A shocking brutal act that must be condemned in the strongest terms. As someone who attended many scenes of violence during my days as a young journalist during the Troubles I truly believed days like this had gone. Just heartbreaking. Thoughts and prayers with Lyra’s family at this tragic time. May she rest in peace."

Local election candidate Helena Young also condemned the killing. "I cannot believe the news I am waking up to this morning. I literally don't know what to say, I am shocked, horrified, angry and sickened. A beautiful, vibrant, intelligent young woman snuffed out by people who wish to bring us back to the horrors and the pain of the past. Anyone who feels that these people represent them should hang their heads in shame, what exactly is the purpose of these people, what are they hoping to achieve? I'll say nothing more, I am so, so angry!"

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