Jacquie Lawrence pays tribute to the young journalist murdered in Northern Ireland on Good Friday

Lyra McKee, the talented young journalist, advocate and activist for the LGBTQI community, was murdered on the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday agreement by a terrorist suspected to be a member of the self-named “New IRA”.

At a vigil on Good Friday afternoon itself in Derry, Lyra’s partner, Sara Canning, said she had been left without “The woman I was planning to grow old with”.  It is thought that Lyra had only recently moved to Derry and was happy living with the love of her life.

Lyra is the second journalist to be murdered in all the years of struggles in Northern Ireland. A second murder that has brought unified condemnation from leaders of parties and organisations, usually discordant.

The leaders of Northern Ireland’s six biggest political parties said they were “united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime”. One of Lyra’s friends, Kathleen Brady, said, “Those politicians stood amongst us today and that really is the power of Lyra.”

There is no suggestion that she was shot because of her sexuality. However, social media posting about her death has been smeared with homophobic sentiment, with one tweet implying that if she’d been a white, straight man there wouldn’t have been the media coverage or outcry.

Lyra was a dynamo of a writer and a published author who in 2016 was named by Forbes magazine as one of the “30 under 30 in media”. She had published investigative pieces with BuzzFeed and the Atlantic, and was an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry. She had a two-book deal with Faber.

She was only 29 years old. 

Lyra rose to prominence following a 2014 blog called Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast. It is was later made into a film.

She dedicated her subsequent Ted Talk to those killed by a terrorist in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016 and LGBTQI people who had committed suicide.

“It’s so poignant when I think back on what she said now,” said one of her close friends. “She was talking about intolerance and hate and violence and how senseless it all is, how destructive.

Another close friend said: “We are a small group of friends and one of us is now gone. Lyra was a voice – she wasn’t afraid to stand up and hold her view.”

The LGBTQI community has lost the potential of that voice. A voice that believed in progression and the betterment of humanity. She said at her Ted Talk: “Within the LGBT community, we have a saying that we tell people, It Gets Better.”

It is with sad irony that it is only with her death that we see an indication of how better it has got for the LGBTQI community. Not one media outlet, so far, has made an issue out of the fact that her partner was a woman or focussed on her sexuality beyond her authorship. 

That is a good thing. But at what cost?


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