Lyra McKee: Murdered journalist's death 'must not be in vain', says partner

The partner of a journalist murdered in Northern Ireland has described the fatal shooting as a "barbaric act".

Lyra McKee, 29, was shot in the head as she covered disturbances in Londonderry on Thursday evening and died later in hospital.

She tweeted about the "absolute madness" in the area in the hours before she lost her life.

Detectives have said the New IRA, a dissident republican group, was most likely behind the reporter's murder.

Ms McKee's partner Sara Canning told a vigil in Derry: "Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act."

She said it has left so many friends without their confidante.

"Victims and LGBTQI community are left without a tireless advocate and activist and it has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with.

She added: "This cannot stand, Lyra's death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on and the life that she has left behind."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: "This murder demonstrates all too starkly that when terrorists bring violence and guns into the community, members of the public are placed in severe danger. It is abundantly clear that they do not care who they harm.

"This is a horrendous act, it is unnecessary, it is uncalled for, it's totally unjustified.

"But not only is it a murder of a young woman, it is an attack again on the people of this city."

However, Republican group Saoradh released a statement claiming a "Republican Volunteer" shot Ms McKee while attempting to "defend people" from the PSNI.

Trouble broke out on Thursday night as officers carried out a search operation aimed at disrupting dissident republicans ahead of this weekend's commemoration of Irish independence.

During the disturbances, more than 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers - and two cars were hijacked and set on fire.

A gunman fired a number of shots at police, one of which hit Ms McKee in the head.

Leona O'Neill, who was at the scene, said she called an ambulance for the journalist.

She tweeted: "I was standing beside this young woman when she fell beside a police Land Rover tonight in Creggan #Derry. I called an ambulance for her but police put her in the back of their vehicle and rushed her to hospital where she died."

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named Ms McKee one of their 30 under 30 in media. She had been working on a new book which had been due to be published in 2020.

It is understood she had recently moved to Derry to live with her partner.

Sky's senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins said tensions had been building in Creggan in the run-up to Easter, when republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 uprising against British rule in Ireland.

He explained: "There was some disorder last Easter when dissident republicans, who are opposed to the peace process, organised an illegal parade there.

"Earlier this week, they said police would be to blame for any disorder this year and warned what they called 'British crown forces' not to saturate the area.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The death of Lyra McKee in last night's suspected terrorist incident in Londonderry is shocking and truly senseless.

"My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues. She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage."

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill condemned the "senseless loss of life", saying it was not only a tragedy for the family, but also "an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement".

She added: "I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.

"We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.

"We remain united in our determination to building a better and peaceful future for all."

Ms O'Neill called on those responsible to "disband immediately and end their pointless actions against the community".

DUP leader Arlene Foster described the killing as a "senseless act".

She said: "A family has been torn apart. Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s and 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019.

"No one wants to go back. My thoughts are also with the brave officers who stood in defence of their community."

Robin Swann, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said news of the death was "devastating".

He tweeted: "A precious life lost, we can't go back to this nor can we allow others to drag us back."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar condemned the killing of Lyra McKee and said: "We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past."