The Friday before Easter

Last April I went to an event with George Mitchell, Tony Blair, Bertie Aherne, Bronagh Hinds, Seamus Mallon & others to mark 20 years since the signing of the Belfast/ Good Friday agreement. (I went looking for the blog post on it & discovered that I hadn’t written one, dammit. I’d forgotten how useful blogging is for capturing moments that would otherwise be lost.)

It was a reminder of the work it takes to build a foundation for peace. Nothing just happens- it takes commitment, time to listen & a determination to build trust and consensus. It’s not a job with regular hours, or annual leave.

As the peacemakers spoke, it was clear that our current generation of politicians have different priorities. Seamus Mallon was wonderfully scathing, but no I can’t give you an example because I didn’t write it down…

This year there was nothing good about the Friday before Easter. I woke up to the news that Lyra McKee had been killed by rioters in Derry. When I gathered myself, I found Girl2 watching Derry Girls- the episode finishing with Clinton’s Derry speech . The confluence had me in tears. The hope for the future we had was embodied in Lyra McKee.

Thousands of people were killed in “the troubles”. Too many have been killed during “the peace”. Ms McKee was a force of nature, a talented investigative journalist doing her job. I knew her only from Twitter, we had friends in common. I admired her work, her humour, how she knew everybody. There have been many stories of her generosity, curiosity and warmth.

But what’s different about Lyra McKee’s life and death has been the variety of people she touched. She was a child of our peace, someone who should never have known our violence, much less be killed by it. She was a powerful advocate. She embraced social media. She’d found her love and moved to be with her. She was fearless in her journalism & had a book ready for publication. For young people, for Belfast, for Derry, for writers, for women, for the curious, for LGBTIQ, for politically interested, for the lost, for so many people, Lyra was ‘one of us’.

Her murderers called her death a ‘tragic accident’ & said their volunteers would be more careful in future.

The reaction to her murder has been incredible. Her friends used paint to mark red, as bloodied, hands over the building used by the dissident republican group. Such disregard for the big boys. Such courage.

The funeral was shown live on two television stations. The Prime Ministers of UK and Ireland, the Irish President & a representative of the Queen attended alongside family, friends, colleagues & local politicians. From a Catholic background, Lyra was buried from the Church of Ireland cathedral, with a service conducted by clergy from both denominations. Lyra brought people together.

Referencing the local political stalemate (we’ve had no government since 2017) and the politicians sitting together in the front of the congregation, the priest wondered, “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?” There is hope that this will mark a changing point, and cynicism that we’ve had potential changing points before, but our politicians dig deeper trenches.

Politicians won’t change until we tell them too. In May, we have 2 elections- for local councillors and for Members of the European Parliament. Our so called leaders will take their cues from those results.

Vote carefully. Vote for good. Vote for bringing people together. Take responsibility for our mess. Make change happen.




6 thoughts on “The Friday before Easter

  1. I’m so saddened and troubled by what you’ve shared about this senseless, tragic death, Fiona. I somewhat “pride myself” in keeping up with stories from around the world, and do what I can to not be either isolated or insulated from the struggles around the globe, and yet I didn’t hear one word of this. I’m not sure if that was me, or it wasn’t covered. But I’m going to do my own investigative digging to find out more, and thank you for sharing.

    I think I can feel the weight on the priest’s heart as he asks why it would take the death of a 29-year old to awaken the politicians and leadership to effect the necessary changes and make progress in forming a viable government, but I wonder if even this will fade in memory for far too many. We have our own gross negligences proliferating like flies in the United States, and I fear–word chosen deliberately–I FEAR that we will experience ever-increasing tragedy because we are so splintered in caring about others. Our collective lack of human compassion cannot go unchecked without a consequence. I’ll climb down off my soap box, sorry, but your story does two things. It makes me very sad, and heightens a fear that I can’t quite put my finger on. Be well, dear Fiona. And keep us in tune with what’s important in your part of the world.

    1. Debra, I understand your fear. This makes me so mad- how society ok with othering people when voting & then can’t cope with the very real, entirely predictable consequences of that!

      1. We really are experiencing some deeply troubling times, Fiona. There’s no doubt. I know we’ve lived through really perilous times, and our history is marked by times much worse than now, quite frankly, but I think we always hope we’ve learned something and can do better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so!

  2. I have paid close attention to all this, not because it is a bad thing or a train wreck. Tragic, yes, even beyond. But to how people would respond. The only thing that got stirred up was ‘condemnation’. Hopefully, the last dying breath of a terrible ogre. Ogres take a long time to die am told.

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