Four dissident republicans arrested over murder of a 29-year-old woman in April 2019, a crime that sparked international headlines.
Update, Feb 12, 2020, 1 pm: A man has been formally charged for the murder of Lyra McKee.
Update, Feb 12, 2020, 6.35am: Three of four men arrested as part of the investigation into the murder of journalist Lyra McKee have been released. The men, aged 20, 27, 29 and 52, were detained under the Terrorism Act in Derry on Tuesday morning.
The 52-year-old remains in custody. The 27 and 20-year-olds were released pending a report to prosecutors. The 29-year-old was released without charge
The four men were arrested in relation to the murder of young journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland which caused shock and revulsion across Ireland and Britain in April 2019.
The men, aged between 20 and 52, were detained under the Terrorism Act in Derry on Tuesday morning before being transferred to Belfast for questioning.
Dissident republicans, who have opposed the 22-year-old peace process, claimed responsibility for Lyra’s murder.
The men who are aged 20, 27, 29 and 52 were being held at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite in Belfast on Tuesday evening.
North Belfast native McKee, who had moved to Derry to be with her partner, was shot dead while observing rioting in the Creggan area of the city on April 18, 2019.
Considered a brilliant young journalist, who gave a voice to the marginalized in Northern Ireland, Lyra’s murder sparked headlines all across the globe.
The arrests of the four men were welcomed by Simon Byrne, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). He said that detectives were “working hard in the pursuit of justice”.
The senior investigating officer in the case, Detective Supt Jason Murphy, renewed an appeal for information on Tuesday morning.
Lyra’s murder was witnessed by dozens of people in Derry and, while there is little popular support for dissident republicans, it is believed that fear has prevented witnesses from coming forward.
“I have always believed that some people within the community know what happened and who was involved,” he said.
“I understand that people may be frightened to talk to us. I have previously given my personal assurance relating to anonymity for the purpose of this investigation and I renew this assurance today.”
He said that the “horrific attack” had a terrible impact on the entire community of Creggan, and reiterated calls for those with video evidence from the rioting on the night of Holy Thursday to come forward.
"I know that many people were recording mobile phone video clips that night and, whilst we had a huge response to my initial appeal for those videos, I believe that others may exist,” he added.
Responsibility for the murder was claimed by the so-called ‘New IRA’, dissidents who remain opposed to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which has brought more than two decades of peace to Northern Ireland.
A journalist and LGBT activist, McKee (29) was born in North Belfast – where a quarter of all the deaths in the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ occurred – but had moved to the province’s second city to be with her partner, Sara Canning.
At the time of her death, she was working on a book called The Lost Boys, focusing on young males who were abducted, murdered, and buried in secret during the worst years of ‘The Troubles’.
Born four years before the first IRA ceasefire in 1994, she also took a keen interest in the youths and teenagers who felt left behind by the peace process.
People saw a terrible irony in the fact that a gunman from the ‘New IRA’ ended her life so chillingly during disturbances in Derry, where some young people have been recruited and radicalized by older “dissident” republicans who have never accepted the peace process.
She was researching the dangers of frontline journalism on the night of her murder and was due to speak at an Amnesty International event about the perils of reporting on the conflict.
Her top-class journalism included an article for the US current affairs magazine, The Atlantic, about the alarmingly high suicide rates among young people in Northern Ireland.
Six years ago, Lyra wrote a letter to her 14-year old self which was turned into an acclaimed documentary. The short film reflected her struggles as a gay teenager in Northern Ireland and those of the entire LGBT community in a conservative society.
A ban on gay marriage in the province was only lifted last summer and the first same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland’s history also took place on Tuesday. Robyn Peoples (26) and Sharni Edwards (27) made history at a ceremony in Co Antrim.
“After Lyra’s death, people wanted to tell me their stories. I hope she’s changed hearts and minds. If anything good can come out of the hell of the past year, I hope that there was a push for marriage equality because of Lyra. It should never have taken her being murdered, but here we are,” Ms Canning told The Irish Times on Tuesday.
Lyra’s funeral was a key moment in bringing Northern Ireland’s politicians together, almost two and a half years after on-going disputes between the (republican) Sinn Fein and (unionist) DUP led to the collapse of the power-sharing Stormont Executive.
“Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?” asked Fr. Martin Magill during the ecumenical service at St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.
Fr Magill was a good friend of the young journalist and the thronged cathedral erupted into spontaneous applause. The leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein, Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald, were sitting together and, clearly uncomfortable at first, were forced to stand and join in the applause.
Fr Magill had commended them for standing together in the Creggan the night after Lyra’s murder and, following the funeral, both Ms Foster and Ms McDonald faced intensive questioning about their desire to restore the administration.
After three years without a devolved Government, and direct rule from London, power-sharing was restored in Northern Ireland last month.
Fr Magill also had a strong message for Lyra’s murderers.
“I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee, journalist, and writer, as a powerful example of ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends,” he told the ‘New IRA’ killers.
The congregation at Lyra’s funeral included the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and then British Prime Minister Theresa May.
* A digital journalist based in Galway, Ireland, Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award. Find him on Facebook or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com.
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