Lyra McKee

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Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee (33207175144) (cropped).jpg
McKee in 2017
BornLyra Catherine McKee
(1990-03-31)31 March 1990
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died18 April 2019(2019-04-18) (aged 29)
Derry, Northern Ireland
Alma materBirmingham City University (M.A.)
  • Angels with Blue Faces (2019)
AwardsForbes 30 Under 30 (2016)

Lyra Catherine McKee (/ˈlɪərə məˈk/[1] 31 March 1990 – 18 April 2019)[2] was a journalist from Northern Ireland who wrote for several publications about the consequences of the Troubles. She also served as an editor for Mediagazer, a news aggregator website. On 18 April 2019, McKee was fatally shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry.[note 1]

Early life and education[edit]

McKee was born on 31 March 1990 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[3] Her interest in journalism began at fourteen years old when she wrote for the school newspaper[4] at St Gemma's High School.[5] By the following year she joined Children's Express (shortly to be renamed Headliners),[6] a charity that supports young people through helping them develop journalism skills, and through that was awarded the Young Journalist Award by Sky News in 2006.[5] She studied online journalism at Birmingham City University under Paul Bradshaw,[7] pursuing an Master of Arts degree, but did not graduate.[8] She was posthumously awarded an MA in online journalism in January, 2020; her sister, Nichola Corner, accepted the degree on her behalf.[9]


In 2011, McKee joined the staff of news aggregator Mediagazer, a sister site of technology news aggregator Techmeme.[10][11][12] In 2014, she came to wider public attention with the publication of a blog post titled "Letter to my 14-year-old self" in which she described the challenges of growing up gay in Belfast; it was subsequently made into a short film.[13][14] McKee's work as a journalist included a number of pieces that appeared in both domestic and international media.[15] Among these were articles she wrote for Mosaic[16][17] (republished by The Atlantic), The Belfast Telegraph, Private Eye[18] and BuzzFeed News.[4][19] In 2016 Forbes magazine named her as one of its "30 under 30 in media" because of her work as an investigative reporter.[15]

Publication of her first book, a non-fiction work titled Angels with Blue Faces, was imminent at the time of her death.[20] It deals with the Provisional IRA killing of Belfast MP Robert Bradford. McKee sought crowdfunding to finance its publication,[4] and it was scheduled for publication by Excalibur Press.[21] She subsequently signed a two-book deal with Faber and Faber.[14][15] At the time of her death, her second book, The Lost Boys, was scheduled for release by Faber in 2020,[22] but remained unfinished.[21] It concerns the disappearances of Thomas Spence and John Rodgers from Belfast's Falls Road in November 1974. Faber and Faber had compared the work to that of Anna Funder's Stasiland and Andy O'Hagan's The Missing.[15]

McKee wrote on the consequences of The Troubles. She notably wrote "Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies", an article on teenage suicides linked to the conflict.[19][23] At the time of her death, McKee was researching unsolved killings during The Troubles in Northern Ireland of the late 20th century.[2] In March 2019 Irish Times writer Martin Doyle featured McKee in his article "Best of Irish: 10 rising stars of Irish writing".[21][24]

She gave a TEDx talk, "How uncomfortable conversations can save lives", at TEDxStormont Women in 2017, about the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting.[4]

In 2018, she became a trustee of Headliners, the charity that had helped her as a teenager to start her career in journalism.[6]

McKee was the partner of Sara Canning, a nurse at Altnagelvin Area Hospital, and had moved to Derry to be with her.[25][26] After her death it was revealed that she had been planning to propose marriage to Canning, and had purchased an engagement ring.[27]


A PSNI Constable on the Creggan estate shortly after McKee's murder

On 18 April 2019, McKee was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry, Northern Ireland.[28][29] Violence broke out after police raids on dissidents with the aim of seizing munitions ahead of the Easter Rising commemorative parades due to take place in the area that weekend. The disturbances were centred on Fanad Drive. Youths threw petrol bombs and burnt two vehicles. Police said that a gunman then fired up to twelve shots towards police officers. McKee, who was on Fanad Drive and standing near an armoured police Land Rover, was wounded in the head.[30][31] Mobile phone footage and police CCTV footage[32] shows a masked gunman, believed to be a member of the New IRA, opening fire with a handgun.[30] McKee was taken by police, in an armoured Land Rover, to Altnagelvin Area Hospital, where she later died.[30] Police blamed dissident republicans for her death.[30][33][34] The last time a journalist was killed in the UK was the 2001 assassination of Martin O'Hagan.[35]

She was survived by her partner, mother, two brothers and three sisters.[27]

Funeral and vigils[edit]

McKee's funeral took place at the Anglican St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, on 24 April.[36] It was attended by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O'Neill, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.[27] Members of the National Union of Journalists formed a guard of honour.[27] McKee's coffin was met with applause from the waiting public as it arrived at the cathedral.[37]

A vigil at the site of her killing held on 19 April was attended by Colum Eastwood, Arlene Foster, Naomi Long and Mary Lou McDonald. A second vigil was held in Belfast City Hall, and was attended by author Anna Burns and John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project, an LGBT rights charity in Northern Ireland.[30]

Reactions to death[edit]

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the murder "shocking and senseless", saying McKee "died doing her job with great courage".[30] Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said "our solidarity also goes out to the people of Derry and to the entire journalism community. We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past."[30] Irish President Michael D. Higgins, said "the loss of a journalist at any time in any part of the world is an attack on truth itself."[30]

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who had visited Derry only a few hours before the events, also condemned the murder. The attack was condemned by religious leaders of many denominations, including Ken Good, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe; Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin; Donal McKeown, Catholic Bishop of Derry; and Charles McMullen, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.[38] Other public figures to express condolences include Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and former US President Bill Clinton.[30][39] Séamus Dooley, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Journalists in Northern Ireland, described her as "a journalist of courage, style and integrity".[4]

The leaders of Northern Ireland's main political parties, the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party, released a joint statement condemning the killing of McKee and described it as "an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes". They also said that it was a "pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere". They further reiterated their support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who were the intended targets of the gun attack.[30]

Investigations and prosecutions[edit]

The investigative website Bellingcat published an "Open Source Survey" of the shooting.[40][41] The same day the police had arrested two men, aged 18 and 19, on suspicion of involvement in McKee's murder.[42][43] They were released without charge the following day.[44] On 23 April, The Irish News published an article claiming that the New IRA had admitted responsibility for the killing, stated that McKee was not the intended target of the murder, and offered apologies to McKee's family and partner.[36][45] On the same day, police arrested a 57-year-old woman in connection with the murder; she was later released unconditionally.[46]

On 25 April, the crime prevention charity Crimestoppers offered a reward of up to £10,000 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the killing.[47] On 1 May the PSNI confirmed it would offer anonymity to any witnesses who came forward with information.[48]

McKee, and her friends' attempt to get a conviction after her death, are the subject of a documentary film, The Real Derry Girls, made by Peter Taylor for the BBC.[49]

Leona O’Neill, a fellow Derry journalist who witnessed and wrote about McKee's killing, later received online threats, alleging that she was responsible, or had invented her account of the shooting.[50]

On 11 February 2020, four men, aged 20, 27, 29 and 52, were arrested under the Terrorism Act in Derry.[51] A 52-year-old man was charged with McKee's murder the following day.[52] In early June 2020, the murder weapon, a Hämmerli X-Esse .22 LR pistol, was recovered by police from the Ballymagroarty area of Derry.[53][54] A 28-year-old man, who was linked to the gun via DNA evidence, was subsequently charged with possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life; he denies the charges.[55] In a 2021 statement to the Belfast High Court, the prosecution said that the gun had been used in four paramilitary attacks between September 2018 and March 2019.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There is a longstanding Derry/Londonderry name dispute. This article follows the approach that Derry refers to the city and County Londonderry refers to the county (outside of organisations' names, which may follow their own approaches).


  1. ^ "'It's dangerous being a journalist in Northern Ireland'". Sky News. 19 April 2019 – via YouTube.
  2. ^ a b "Off-duty journalist shot dead during Northern Ireland riot". Reuters. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Lyra McKee, investigative journalist who wrote fearlessly about her native Northern Ireland – obituary". The Telegraph. 19 April 2019. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Picheta, Rob (19 April 2019). "She dedicated herself to covering Northern Ireland. Murdered investigative journalist 'tirelessly pursued the truth'". CNN. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b "North Belfast student wins national award". 29 August 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Lyra McKee". 20 April 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Paul (20 April 2019). "Lyra McKee". Medium. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  8. ^ Brooks, Katie (19 April 2019). "Tributes paid to former Birmingham student Lyra McKee shot dead in Derry". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  9. ^ McCárthaigh, Sean. "Lyra McKee posthumously awarded masters degree". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  10. ^ Plesser, Andy (3 November 2011). "Meet This Powerful Human News Curator: Lyra McKee from Belfast". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  11. ^ Rivera, Gabe (3 November 2011). "Meet Mediagazer's New (Human) Editors". Mediagazer. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  12. ^ Rivera, Gabe (25 April 2019). "Commemorating Lyra McKee, our friend and colleague of 7½ years". Medium. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  13. ^ Bol, Rosita (26 January 2017). "Lyra McKee on growing up gay in Belfast: 'I used to bargain with God not to send me to hell'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Rising star wins two-book deal". The Belfast Telegraph. 14 April 2018. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d "Lyra McKee: A rising star of investigative journalism". The Belfast Telegraph. Independent News and Media. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies". Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  17. ^ "The fight of your life". The fight of your life. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  18. ^ "News: Lyra McKee". Private Eye (1495). May 2019. p. 6. Lyra McKee [...] got an early break when she had a story published in Private Eye aged just 18. [...] It was the sort of story an experienced journalist twice her age would have been proud of, and a sign of the impressive things to come before her career was so tragically curtailed.
  19. ^ a b McKee, Lyra (19 January 2016). "Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies". Mosaic. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  20. ^ Calder, Tina (19 April 2019). "Press Statement – REF: Death of journalist Lyra McKee". Excalibur Press. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  21. ^ a b c Doyle, Martin (19 April 2019). "Lyra McKee: Lost Girl of the Troubles". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  22. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (9 April 2018). "Faber signs two from 'rising star' Lyra McKee". The Bookseller. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  23. ^ Goodyear, Sheena (19 April 2019). "'She had the biggest heart,' friend says of journalist shot in Northern Ireland riot". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  24. ^ Doyle, Martin (15 March 2019). "Best of Irish: 10 rising stars of Irish writing". Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  25. ^ "Lyra McKee: Murdered journalist's 'dreams snuffed out'". BBC. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  26. ^ McKay, Susan (19 April 2019). "Lyra McKee didn't die in the cause of Irish 'freedom'. She was Irish freedom". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d "Lyra McKee: Standing ovation as priest challenges politicians". BBC News. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  28. ^ Fenton, Siobhan (19 April 2019). "'All the promise of Northern Ireland's post-conflict generation': a tribute to Lyra McKee". New Statesman. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  29. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (19 April 2019). "This is what happened last night during the violence in Derry". The Independent. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Journalist shot dead in Derry during rioting in the city". BBC News. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  31. ^ "Lyra McKee murder: How was this allowed to happen? Call for ban on parades of hate after Dublin march by Saoradh". The Belfast Telegraph. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  32. ^ "CCTV released following Lyra McKee murder". BBC News. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  33. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (19 April 2019). "Journalist killed in Derry 'terrorist incident', say Northern Ireland police". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  34. ^ Carroll, Rory (19 April 2019). "Derry police blame dissident republicans for journalist's death". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Northern Ireland: Freelance journalist Lyra McKee shot dead during riots". International Federation of Journalists. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  36. ^ a b Young, Connla (23 April 2019). "New IRA admits murder of journalist Lyra McKee and offers 'sincere apologies'". The Irish News. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  37. ^ Ferguson, Amanda; Booth, William (24 April 2019). "At Lyra McKee's funeral in Belfast, the priest asks why it takes a young journalist's death for politicians to come together". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  38. ^ McGarry, Patsy (19 April 2019). "Church leaders roundly condemn murder of Lyra McKee in Derry". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  39. ^ "Lyra McKee: Killing has led to 'palpable change' in community sentiment towards policing". BBC. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  40. ^ Gray, Colin (19 April 2019). "An Open Source Survey of the Shooting of Lyra McKee". Bellingcat. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  41. ^ Kitching, Chris (19 April 2019). "Lyra McKee: Is this the moment gunman fires shot that killed journalist in Derry?". Mirror. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  42. ^ "Lyra McKee: Two teenagers arrested under Terrorism Act". BBC. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  43. ^ "Lyra McKee murder: two teenage men arrested in connection with shooting". The Belfast Telegraph. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  44. ^ Kearney, Vincent (21 April 2019). "Men arrested for McKee murder released without charge". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  45. ^ "'New IRA' admits Lyra McKee murder". BBC. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  46. ^ "New IRA apologizes for journalist's killing, police release woman". Reuters. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  47. ^ "Reward offered in Lyra McKee murder appeal". BBC. 25 April 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  48. ^ "Lyra McKee murder: Anonymity offer to witnesses in court". BBC News. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  49. ^ "BBC News Channel - The Real Derry Girls". BBC News. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  50. ^ McDonald, Henry (27 June 2019). "Twitter and Facebook to act over online abuse of Lyra McKee's friend". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  51. ^ "Lyra McKee murder: Four men arrested in Derry". BBC News. 11 February 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  52. ^ "Lyra McKee: Man charged with journalist's murder". BBC News. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  53. ^ "Police identify gun used to murder Lyra McKee". BBC News. 11 June 2020. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  54. ^ "Police recover gun used to kill journalist Lyra McKee". Irish Examiner. 11 June 2020. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  55. ^ a b Alan Erwin, Lyra McKee: Gun that killed her also used in four paramilitary shootings, The Irish News (3 March 2021).

External links[edit]