NUJ salutes the spirit of Lyra McKee

  • 20 May 2021

At the NUJ event tonight to remember Lyra McKee, the union pledged to support the Justice for Lyra campaign and again appealed for witness to come forward.

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting which had been organised so union members could gather together and celebrate the spirit of Lyra. Seamus said:

"Those of us privileged to attend her funeral will never forget the dignity with which Lyra’s partner, her devastated family and friends celebrated her unique spirit following her cruel and wanton killing in Creggan two years ago. They are all in our thoughts this evening."

He added:

"It is important to stress this union’s support for the Justice for Lyra campaign and to renew our call to anyone who may be able to assist in the prosecution of those involved in her killing to assist the police in their investigation."

Seamus said that Lyra was an outstanding journalist, and her short life should not be defined by the circumstances of her death.

Lyra's partner Sara Canning, tonight talked about the Lyra she knew and loved. She said:

"There was never a dull moment with her".

Sara added that it was "gratifying to see people are still keeping her name and work alive". Sara mentioned that Lyra in her personal life was a very generous person and was always there for her friends in need and in Lyra's life it was her mum and family that came first.

Kathryn Johnson, an NUJ member and freelance journalist was a colleague and friend of Lyra's and Kathryn has faced intimidation as a result of her work, including being forced to flee from home. Kathryn said:

"Lyra was fiercely proud of being in the NUJ."

Although Lyra was only 29 when she died, she had already achieved a lot including being named as Sky's journalist of the year at the age of 16 and the year before she was killed she had secured two book deals and had received an offer from Netflix. Kathryn also said: "Lyra was funny, engaging and lovable".

Kathyrn said Lyra's death is part of a spectrum of threats and attacks against journalists in Northern Ireland and she also paid tribute to another NUJ member, Martin O'Hagan, who was also killed.

As Seamus introduced Owen Reidy, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), he highlighted the ICTUs’ "Better Work, Better Lives" campaign which provides a template for an inclusive society in which social dialogue is cherished and human rights are respected.

Owen had not known Lyra when she was alive but had become familiar with her work as an investigative journalism after her death, he said that every good and democratic society needs investigative journalists, adding that Lyra's work is "incredibly impressive".

He encouraged the audience to remember that Northern Ireland remains the most deprived region of the UK where precarious work is prevalent, especially among women and young people. He also raised the problems linked to segregation in schooling and housing and said there are more peace walls in Belfast today than there were in 1998.

Owen stressed the importance of having conversations and winning over people one by one basis, as this is crucial to creating the society that everyone deserves in Northern Ireland. He believes that Lyra's legacy is a rich one and it will continue to live on.

Mark McCauley was the last speaker of the night, and he is the director of photography on the forthcoming film Ceasefire Baby from Erica Starling Productions. Mark has been working on the film for more than a year and many of the stories told tonight are reflected in the film.

He said that at the beginning, the film makers didn't know how they were going to make the film, they were working with Sara and Lyra's family, and gathering up Lyra's recordings from her phone. The footage includes lots of tender moments that have been captured forever.

Mark expressed gratitude for being able to get involved in the film, and he said he was proud of the film and all the people who have contributed to it.

At the end of the event, Seamus put on record the great work of the local NUJ branches in Northern Ireland and acknowledged the messages of sympathy and support that have sent to the union from across the world.

Kathryn ended by saying the NUJ will stay true to Lyra's principles and will continue to fight for justice for her.

Find out more about the Justice for Lyra campaign

Lyra her own words:

The video of this event will be published online as soon as possible.

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