New IRA apologises for murder of journalist Lyra McKee

Sharon Marris, news reporter

The so-called New IRA has admitted responsibility for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry.

Ms McKee, 29, was shot in the head as she covered rioting on the Creggan estate in Derry on Thursday night and died later in hospital.

In a statement given to The Irish News using a recognised code word, the self-styled New IRA said: "On Thursday night following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage.

"We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this.

"In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.

"The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death."

Trouble began as officers carried out a search operation aimed at disrupting dissident republicans ahead of commemorations of Irish independence.

Police said around 50 petrol bombs were thrown in the confrontation and two cars were burned out.

Ms McKee, who had tweeted about the "absolute madness" in the area in the hours before she lost her life, was standing near a police vehicle when she was hit.

Sky's senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins said: "In this statement, the so-called New IRA attempts to justify the firing of shots, clearly indicates that more violence is planned and offers fairly hollow words of apology for Lyra's murder.

"Given the backlash against the dissidents since her killing, it is quite extraordinary that they have chosen to use such bravado terminology.

"With every word, they are fuelling the anger about Lyra's murder but they either do not recognise that or do not care."

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

Ms McKee, born and raised in Belfast, was a rising star in journalism, extensively covering the Northern Irish conflict and its legacy.

She rose to prominence in a 2014 blog called Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast. It was later made into a short film.

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of their "30 under 30 in media" and she recently signed a two-book deal with Faber & Faber.

The first book, The Lost Boys, was due for release next year.

It is understood Ms McKee had recently moved to Derry to live with her partner while continuing her role as an editor for the California-based news site Mediagazer.

Her funeral will be held in Belfast on Wednesday.