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Remembering Northern Ireland Journalist Lyra McKee


Police in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, have arrested two men in the death of Lyra McKee, a journalist and activist who was killed Thursday as she witnessed rioting there. The city is also known as Derry. Its chief detective warned yesterday of a new breed of militant threatening peace in Northern Ireland. For more on McKee and on the violence, we turn to the Press Association journalist Aoife Moore. She's in Dublin. Welcome to the program.

AOIFE MOORE: Thank you. Hello.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So just your reaction to what happened. It must be very difficult for the community there.

MOORE: Absolutely. I mean, Creggan, where Lyra was killed, is a really tight-knit community anyway. And when such a tragedy happens, like Lyra's death, it's really shaken the people who live there. I mean, these are people who have, you know, overcome already so many years of trauma. And I think they thought that was very much behind them. And to have an innocent woman killed on their streets again is just an - like a hardy (ph) kind of revert back to.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do we know more today about what happened on the street during this riot? Was this an accident? Or was it targeted?

MOORE: It doesn't appear at the moment that Lyra was targeted. It appears the gunman, who was crouched down behind a wall, was firing indiscriminately in the direction of a police blockade. And Lyra and a few of her friends and a few journalists were on the other side of the blockade. And when he fired those scattered shots into the blockade, one hit Lyra in the crossfire.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the accused - what's known about them?

MOORE: At the minute, all that's known is there's - two men have been arrested. They're 18 and 19 - so very young men. But for Derry people, this hasn't come as much of a surprise - the age of the men. These dissident republican groups that carry out these kinds of flashpoints tend to use younger, teenage men - maybe from like a vulnerable community and kind of use them to carry out these kinds of attacks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lyra was 29. She was a fellow journalist and a beautiful writer whose "Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self" five years ago was widely praised. Can you tell me a little bit more about her work and what you know of her life?

MOORE: Yeah. So Lyra was, as you say, a beautiful writer. She specialized in kind of feature work and long-form essays. She was an activist, an LGBT woman. She often wrote about her challenges and what she felt about being a gay woman in Northern Ireland. And her work, although political, is often political in the sense of the young people who've been left behind since the troubles. We're supposedly living in a time of peace now. And people like me and Lyra here in our late 20s - although we remember the army on the streets, we also remember the Good Friday Agreement. And we were very young when it was signed. But there are masses of problems that have been left behind as we kind of live in the shadow of the troubles. And her - a lot of her work reflected that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that's striking about this is that the alleged assailants weren't born when the peace deal was struck in Northern Ireland. Both you and Lyra weren't even 10 years old when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. I understand that your family has also been affected by violence and that you're from Derry.

MOORE: Absolutely. I mean, I grew up on the streets where Lyra died. And like most families in Creggan and the wider Derry community, my mom's brother was shot and killed on Bloody Sunday. That's very common in Derry. I think you would struggle to find a household that hasn't been touched in some way by violence. So I'm not very special in that sense.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why do you think violence is flaring again and young people are dying now in violence that was supposed to have been done away with?

MOORE: I do think - and like Lyra said herself - that we've been denied the spoils of peace. We are still living in the shadow of the troubles. And that shadow leads to unemployment, poverty, lack of infrastructure. Young people really need to go away from Northern Ireland to work or to go to university or kind of, like, live their lives like our peers get on the British mainland.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Aoife Moore, a journalist with the Press Association. She spoke with us from Dublin.

Thanks again.

MOORE: Thank you.


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