Out Lesbian Journalist Shot Dead in Northern Ireland

Out lesbian journalist Lyra McKee was 29 years old when she was shot and killed on April 18.
FACEBOOK/ LYRA McKEE

Out lesbian journalist Lyra McKee, who was perhaps best known for writing a blog post about growing up gay in Belfast, was shot to death while covering a riot in Northern Ireland on April 18.

McKee, 29, was killed during an attack on police carried out by paramilitary forces tied to the New IRA, a militant group that rejects the 1998 Good Friday accords that brought peace to the embattled six counties of Northern Ireland, instead seeking to drive the British out and unite them with the Republic of Ireland. The attack came during riots in the Creggan area on the outskirts of Derry, also known as Londonderry.

The protests emerged after police in Creggan searched for guns and explosives due to suspicion that members of the New IRA were planning violent acts of terrorism. Those searches sparked the riots, with teens tossing petrol bombs and bottles and setting cars on fire. A masked gunman started shooting at police and, in the process, shot McKee as she stood near those vehicles, according to the BBC.

Police officers transported McKee to a hospital, where she died.

Two teenagers were arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder, but were released without being charged. Authorities are continuing to search for evidence in an attempt to determine who carried out the fatal shooting, according to Derry Now, a local publication.

McKee’s partner, Sara Canning, took to social media to express grief over the loss of her loved one.

“She was the love of my life, the most impressive yet humble person alive, and the only person I wanted to grow old with,” Canning wrote on Facebook. “My heart is broken. No cause is worth the loss of Lyra.”

McKee, who was born and raised in Belfast, gained attention in 2014 when she penned a blog post entitled “Letter to my 14-year-old self” about the realities of coming of age as a gay person in Belfast. She went on to write for a variety of publications ranging from BuzzFeed News to The Belfast Telegraph, and she was known for writing about issues tied to The Troubles, a decades-long period during which conflict persisted over the differences between the Irish State and the UK-controlled region of Northern Ireland. McKee examined suicide issues in the aftermath of that era and had been working on a book about people who disappeared during the time.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the killing of McKee, and out gay Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called it an “act of hate.”

“This was an attack not just on one citizen,” Varadkar said. “It was an attack on all of ours, our nation, and our freedoms.”

Canning said McKee’s funeral is planned April 24 at 1 p.m. at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

“It’s going to be a celebration of her life and if people would like to wear Hufflepuff, Harry Potter, or Marvel-related items, I know she would love it,” Canning said.

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