The tragic death of Lyra McKee – a distinguished young journalist and avid LGBT rights campaigner – caused shock, grief and anguish across communities in Northern Ireland and beyond in 2019. Tragic, in that her fight for equal rights for all saw her shot during violent reactions to police raids in a residential area of Derry, by Republican dissidents, where she had recently moved to, from Belfast to be with her partner.
Lyra won awards and accolades as a young journalist and successful writer with a talent for bringing people together. By not shying away from having dialogue with those who opposed her views, Lyra saw the difficulties in Northern Ireland from a unique vantage point, and saw commonalities across communities. The TED talk Lyra gave at Stormont was eloquent and thought-provoking, calling on people to come together and have difficult conversations, breaking down cultural barriers and literally save lives.
Lyra was a tireless campaigner for equal rights for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland and still offers young LGBT people a beacon of hope. Her article “A letter to my 14-year-old self” is simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming, an account of how her life improved as she grew from a young teenager into a young adult. Lyra’s partner Sara Canning spoke with Theresa May at Lyra’s funeral, pointing out her dereliction of duty in not progressing same-sex marriage rights in Northern Ireland. In 2020, Westminster legalised same sex marriage, meaning that had Lyra lived to ask her partner to marry her – something she had planned on doing – she could have been wed in a church.
In life Lyra comforted, touched, and inspired so many people. Her death inspired policy change, and for the legal status for LGBT people to improve across Northern Ireland. Lyra’s light lives on in the hope she gives, through her published letter and the policy she played a part in changing, offering equality. All who love and know her may take comfort in the fact that her untimely death was not in vain.
— Sian Finn, Volunteer Coordinator
This blog is part of a series for LGBT History Month 2022, where members of the Birmingham LGBT Team write about the LGBT people whose lives have influenced and inspired them.