THE FUNERAL OF 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead in Derry last Thursday, took place at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon (Wednesday 24 April).
Led jointly by Dean of St Anne’s Stephen Forde and Catholic priest Fr Martin Magill, her funeral service was attended by President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
In his address during the funeral, Fr. Martin (who has been a tireless peace campaigner in Belfast and one of the organisers of the Four Corners Festival) shared his hope that Lyra’s death will not be in vain. Here are extracts from his message:
“Since the story of Lyra’s murder broke on Holy Thursday into Good Friday, there has been an enormous sense of grief and solidarity at this huge injustice. In death Lyra, has united people of many different backgrounds, as further evidenced by this diverse congregation at her funeral.
“On Good Friday, the day on which Christians all over the world recall the suffering and death of Jesus Christ we also wrestle with the mystery of suffering. For you Lyra’s nearest and dearest, you came to know the experience of Good Friday in your own lives. For those of us who follow Jesus, we believe that the shedding of his innocent blood on the cross was enough - in the words of the hymn: ‘the cross has said it all’. We don’t need any more innocent blood to be shed. The irony could not be more poignant when we consider the signing of the Good Friday agreement which was about ensuring there would be no more deaths like Lyra’s.
“Earlier in this service, we listened to Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes which was chosen by her family in remembrance of Lyra learning these by heart when she was a pupil at St Gemma’s. The beatitude ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ is very timely. Many of us will be praying that Lyra’s death will not have been in vain and will contribute in some way to building peace here. Since Thursday night we have seen the coming together of many people in various places and the unifying of the community against violence.
“I commend our political leaders for standing together in Creggan on Good Friday. I am however left with a question:
“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?”
“As Christians recalled the death of Jesus on the cross, we remembered that His death was not in vain but was for us the doorway to eternal life. I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.
“To the many politicians present in this cathedral today, let me say again those words which one of Lyra’s friends had said: “The younger generation need jobs, they need a better health service and education. They need a life, not a gun put in their hands.”
“All our young people need a life that gives them an aspiration for the future. As our politicians, we need you to be working together to make that happen so that especially for those living in deprived areas that they will feel the peace process is working for them as well – and especially for young people living in these communities.
“I know you as politicians have a very difficult job to but then so too did Lyra. There is another valuable lesson from her life - she was like ‘a dog with a bone’ when she believed she could make a difference. When it comes to our peace process, I would love to see this dogged attitude to the rebuilding of an Assembly that works for the common good. As I listen to the radio every morning, all I seem to hear about various initiatives in Northern Ireland are these words, ‘without a minister, this can’t be taken forward’. I pray that Lyra’s murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive in previous Assemblies and to begin anew.
“On Easter Sunday, Christians all over the world celebrated the most important event of the Christian year, the resurrection of Jesus. It was because of his resurrection that we believe in life beyond the grave and in the words of today’s second reading from John 14: ‘in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.’ It is in this hope of eternal life and happiness that we gather in prayer and now into the tender mercy of a loving God and Father, I commend Lyra McKee. Amen."