The panicked call that began late April 18, 2019: “Lyra was hit in the head…the police took her to the hospital…” plunged my family into a nightmarish reality from which we cannot awaken.
Three years have passed since the murder of our youngest sister, Lyra McKee, but the excruciating pain of our great loss remains the same.
Lyra was an incredibly caring and thoughtful person who always cared about others. Ever since Lyra could speak, she has been driven by a deep sense of justice and an even deeper need to understand what motivated people to do the things they do.
An immensely curious and perceptive person, “Why?” was the question Lyra was always asking, and one she really wanted to know. As she began to build her career, Lyra used her work and growing influence to help other people. Giving a voice to the forgotten and unheard.
As the youngest of six children, Lyra was our mother’s “blue eye” – they were inseparable. Lyra took great pride in our mother’s strength of character and her ability to raise her children alone despite the social and economic circumstances that surrounded our family. To tell the truth, we are all very proud. Despite our mother’s great strength, she tragically died of a broken heart less than a year after Lyra’s murder – adding to our immense sorrow.
It’s still hard to believe Lyra isn’t here. It’s still hard to believe she was shot. It’s still hard to believe that everything that’s happened over the past three years has been anything but a bad dream. Oddly enough, I still often feel like I wake up from this nightmare and Lyra rushes into my house excitedly and tells me about her latest discovery, or I pick up her voice on the phone and say, “Nic, you’ll never believe the dream.” I had last night…” but it’s the reality – Lyra was murdered and we can’t escape it.
Though Lyra is never far from our thoughts, anniversaries hold special meaning for family and friends. Due to the pandemic restrictions over the past two years, Monday marked the first anniversary that family and friends could come together to pay tribute to Lyra. After attending vigils organized by the National Union of Journalists, we had planned to quietly celebrate the day by laying wreaths near where Lyra lived on Fanad Drive and at her final resting place. Unfortunately, our peaceful and dignified intentions have been marred by the unfortunate actions of others.
As we joined Father Joe Gormley in prayer on Fanad Drive at noon, nearby Republican bands began banging their drums, interrupting the solemnity of our prayer vigil. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the drumming stopped as we left the place where terrorists stole the life of our precious lyre – a coincidence? I can hardly believe it.
In fact, I believe this action was premeditated and prompted by objections to a Republican memorial parade organized in conjunction with Saoradh for yesterday.
Was it unreasonable to demand that such a parade be postponed or brought forward to ensure we could pay tribute to Lyra with dignity on her anniversary? In 1916, the year apparently honored by such commemorations, Easter Monday was April 24th. But April 18 – Lyra’s anniversary – will always be April 18 – it will never change.
As we returned to Belfast to continue our tributes to Lyra in her native city, we were saddened to hear once again of the troubles up north and prayed no one was plunged into an unexpected nightmare similar to ours.
Now, as I sit outside as the twinkling stars try to break the cloudy night sky, Lyra’s immortal words ring in my ears: “Northern Ireland is a beautiful tragedy, suffocated by the chains of its past. It’s a place of darkness and mystery. It’s my home too. Sometimes I love it and hate it equally.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/our-solemn-vigil-on-the-third-anniversary-of-lyras-death-was-marred-by-republican-bands-41565508.html Our solemn vigil on the third anniversary of Lyra’s death was overshadowed by Republican gangs