Northern Ireland: Murder of Lyra Mckee

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 6:55 pm, 23rd April 2019

I thank the Secretary of State for advance notice of her statement. The way the House listened to her today is significant in showing that we share her words and, importantly, the meaning lying behind them.

Of course we need to condemn, and we do condemn, those who perpetrate these acts of violence. It is sad that this statement follows a statement on the atrocities in Sri Lanka. In offering our commiserations to Sara—Lyra’s partner—and Lyra’s family, it is right and proper that we remember the brightness of Lyra’s life and say that it was a life well lived. She was most certainly a child of the peace agreement, and she was a young woman who lived her life in the way she chose, campaigning for the things she believed in. We should remember that bright spark and not simply the way in which that spark left the world.

I am struck by the contradiction between Lyra and the values she stood for and the values of those who chose to take her life, because that is the starkest contrast. Who represents the modern city of Derry? Who represents the Northern Ireland of today? I think it is the Lyra McKees, not the gunmen who mowed her down.

Londonderry is a greatly changed city over the 21 years since the peace process began. It is a modern city that is unrecognisable from the city of years back. Derry has also been changed by Lyra’s murder. The wave of condemnation from people of all backgrounds has sent a stark message to the people of violence who now find themselves isolated and out of touch with the mood of the people of Derry.

I also commend the cross-party solidarity, and it is significant that the leaders of the political parties have signed a joint declaration. It was important to see Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster walk from Creggan together. It was also important to see Mr Campbell, a Londonderry boy, there. That is the leadership that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to expect in light of this tragedy.

As the Secretary of State has already said, this is a foundation on which to build a different future—a better future. She mentioned the police and the security services, and we know there is a paramilitary threat not only from dissident republicans but from loyalist paramilitaries, sometimes involving gangsterism rather than political violence. Nevertheless, that violence corrupts and pollutes the society of Northern Ireland. I ask without any great criticism, but will she review the way in which we deal with paramilitaries of all backgrounds? We certainly need to look at the numbers, but perhaps that is for another occasion.

In conclusion, the phrase “not in my name” has been used an awful lot in recent days, and this House should say that this is not in our name and it is not in the name of our common humanity. Our common humanity says that we stand together with the people of Derry and we stand together with the people of Northern Ireland. In particular, across these islands, we stand together in saying that we condemn those who perpetrated this act and we celebrate the life of Lyra McKee.