Lyra McKee, a 29-year-old journalist who was shot dead by a New IRA gunman in Northern Ireland last week, was honored by hundreds of mourners and political leaders at a funeral in Belfast on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old was shot in the head Thursday while reporting on clashes between rioters and police in the city of Londonderry, also known as Derry. A small Irish nationalist group called the New IRA said it was responsible for her death and apologized, adding that they had been targeting police officers at the time.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins were among those who attended the ceremony, along with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and leaders of Northern Ireland's biggest unionist and nationalist parties.
"In death, Lyra has united people of many different backgrounds," Father Martin Magill told the crowd gathered in Belfast's St. Anne's Cathedral.
"I pray that Lyra's murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive ... and to begin anew," he said.
Ahead of the funeral, representatives from Northern Ireland's six main political parties released a rare joint statement condemning McKee's death.
"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," the statement said.
Both inside and outside the cathedral in Belfast, mourners donned colorful Harry Potter scarves and Marvel superhero clothing in honor of McKee's love of the two franchises. Her partner, Sara Canning, previously encouraged those attending the funeral to wear the colorful garb and said the ceremony would be a "celebration of life."
McKee wrote about growing up gay in Northern Ireland as well as chronicling the experiences of the "cease-fire babies," the generation raised after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended a three-decade sectarian conflict known as "The Troubles."
McKee was an advocate for LGBT rights and was recognized as a rising star in journalism, having landed a spot on Forbes Magazine's "30 under 30 in media" list in 2016.
"Such a warm and innocent heart, she was the greatest listener, someone who had time for everyone," her family said in a statement. "She was a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth."
IRA splinter group
The IRA and other paramilitary groups disarmed following the 1998 peace accord, but a small number of dissidents have formed splinter groups, the largest of which is the New IRA.
The group has been blamed for a car bomb that went off in January outside the main courthouse in Londonderry. No one was injured in the attack.
Police detained two teenagers as well as a 57-year-old woman over McKee's shooting, but have since released all three without charge.
Brexit concerns have also revived fears of renewed tensions along the border between Northern Ireland, which is a UK province, and the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the European Union.
rs/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)