The funeral of murdered journalist, Lyra McKee, ‘a gentle, innocent soul’ , in her family’s words, will take place in Belfast today. A group, calling itself ‘the New IRA’ , has claimed responsibility for her killing.
Lyra McKee’s death in Derry was not an accident. The partition of Ireland in 1922 created a sectarian state in the six, northern counties which has singularly failed as a political unit since its inception. Its genesis was the threatened violence of the Ulster Volunteer Force( UVF) , led by Carson and later endorsed by Craigavon in his ‘Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People’. For most of its existence, that has been the template for government in Northern Ireland ; it was ignored by Westminster until the outbreak of serious violence at the end of the Sixties. Intervention was forced on the British Government by global television images rather than by any active desire to become involved on its part.
Derry provides the perfect microcosm for the shortcomings of the Northern Ireland Government; for the first forty years of its existence in the new state, a Nationalist majority, through political gerrymander, was governed by a Unionist minority. Its hinterland was County Donegal and, in the original concept for temporary partition in 1914, it, along with Fermanagh and Tyrone, would have been part of the new Irish Free State. Tory support for the UVF and Unionism ensured that the Walled City and its links to Orange iconography remained within the Loyalist fold.
To consolidate the gerrymander, as documented by Professor Henry Patterson, economic development and infrastructure were actively prevented in Derry City by the Stormont Government. Its MP, Attorney General and member of the Cabinet, connived and encouraged in this policy of isolationalism. Unemployment was institutionalised ; male unemployment figures in the Creggan estate exceeded 50% ; the the houses were built on a bleak, exposed hillside with few resources and located in a ‘Nationalist’ ward where it did not impinge on voting figures. Northern Ireland receives an annual subvention , estimated at £10bn from the British Treasury ; very little of this surfaced in Derry City. Since 2010, Tory austerity policy , accepted by the Sinn Fein and DUP Executive at Stormont, has had severe impact on the living conditions of the Creggan population and Universal Credit has compounded the problems of many there. A 2017 survey by PriceWaterHouseCooper placed Derry last in a survey of economic development in 57 British cities.
For those with the misguided and plainly wrong political dictum that the gun will lead to a United Ireland, Creggan provided a small core of dispirited, alienated and marginalised young people who were ripe for their brand of Republican radicalisation. The Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements , endorsed by large majorities, north and south , saw Sinn Fein accept the Hume philosophy of shared living on the island of Ireland. The best organised guerrilla faction in the World, the IRA, disbanded and destroyed its weapons. It beggars belief that this motley group of aging warriors hope to succeed where the Provos failed, having recognised the futility of their campaign.
Lyra McKee wrote of peace , tolerance and equality. Her funeral will be attended by leading politicians , North and South and from Westminster. A dangerous , political vacuum currently exists and requires to be addressed urgently .
Let’s hope that some progress may soon occur in the wake of this tragic death.