LGBTQ Icons: Lyra McKee
The death of journalist Lyra McKee has been a sobering reminder of the often unintended consequences of violence, and that the Troubles of Northern Ireland continue to simmer just below the surface of day-to-day life.
In tribute to Lyra’s determination and professionalism, let’s take a look at her life and career.
31 March 1990
18 April 2019, aged 29.
McKee was born on 31 March 1990 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her interest in journalism began at fourteen years old when she wrote for the school newspaper at St Gemma’s High School. By the following year she had won a place on a training scheme for journalists and was awarded the Young Journalist Award by Sky News in 2006.
McKee attended Birmingham City University and graduated with a Master’s Degree in online journalism.
McKee first came to public attention in 2014, with the publication of a blog post titled “Letter to my 14-year-old self” in which she described the challenges of growing up gay in Belfast – it was subsequently made into a short film.
McKee’s work as a journalist included writing for a number of different publications. In 2016, Forbes magazine named her as one of its “30 under 30 in media” because of her work as an investigative reporter.
Publication of her first book, a non-fiction work titled Angels with Blue Faces, was imminent at the time of her death. It deals with the Provisional IRA killing of Belfast MP Robert Bradford. At the time of her death, her second book, The Lost Boys, was scheduled for release by Faber in 2020. It concerns the disappearances of Thomas Spence and John Rodgers from Belfast’s Falls Road in November 1974.
McKee wrote on the consequences of The Troubles. At the time of her death, McKee was researching unsolved killings during The Troubles in Northern Ireland of the late 20th century.
In March 2019, Irish Times writer Martin Doyle featured McKee in his article “Best of Irish: 10 rising stars of Irish writing”.
McKee was in a domestic partnership with Sara Canning, and had moved to Derry to be with her.
On 18 April 2019, McKee was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Violence broke out after police raids on dissidents with the aim of seizing munitions ahead of the Easter Rising commemorative parades due to take place in the area that weekend. The disturbances were centred on Fanad Drive. Rioters threw petrol bombs and burnt two vehicles. Police said that a gunman then fired up to twelve shots towards police officers. McKee, who was on Fanad Drive and standing near an armoured police Land Rover, was wounded. McKee was taken by police to Altnagelvin Area Hospital in an armoured police Land Rover, where she later died.
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties, the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party, released a joint statement condemning the killing of McKee and described it as “an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes”. They also said that it was a “pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere”. They further reiterated their support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who were the intended targets of the gun attack.