DERRY: A journalist was shot dead during riots in Northern Ireland in what police on Friday were treating as a terrorist incident following the latest upsurge in violence to shake the troubled region.
“Lyra McKee was murdered during orchestrated violence in Creggan” in the city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, police chief Mark Hamilton said in a statement.
Republican political party Saoradh said a “republican volunteer” was trying to “defend people” from police when the shot was fired that “accidentally” hit McKee.
The 29-year-old journalist had earlier posted an image from the riots, accompanied by the words “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”
Images of the unrest posted on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.
Saoradh said “heavily armed” police went in to Creggan “to attack republicans in advance of upcoming Easter Rising Commemorations”.
“The inevitable reaction to such an incursion was resistance from the youth of Creggan,” added the statement.
Police chief Hamilton said “a single gunman fired shots in a residential area of the city and as a result wounded Ms McKee”.
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder enquiry,” he added.
Police later said that they were hunting for more than one person.
Some officials blamed Thursday’s unrest on the “New IRA”, a republican paramilitary group opposed to the shift towards non-violent tactics to bring about a united Ireland.
The Saoradh party denies claims it is the political wing of the New IRA.
McKee had written for The Atlantic magazine and Buzzfeed News and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2016 as one of their “30 under 30” outstanding figures, according to her literary agent Janklow & Nesbit.
Her partner Sara Canning paid tribute, saying “our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential (were) snuffed out by this single barbaric act.”
Thursday’s unrest raised memories of past decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
“We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past,” said Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“Those who carried it out do not share the values of our nation, nor our Republic,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019