This is the video transcript for Letter to our Leaders by Ellen Murray.
I was born on the 6th of May, 1993. 15 months later, the IRA announced a complete ceasefire, on the 31st of August, 1994. 17 years later, I met an excited, nerdy, young woman at a university society lunch in Belfast. Her name was Lyra McKee. We got to know each other and over the years that followed became very close friends. As a journalist and writer, she wrote about Northern Ireland’s peace process, and about acceptance of diversity in a post-conflict Northern Ireland. 7 ½ years after we met, on the 18th of April 2019, Lyra was shot dead, murdered in the street by the New IRA, not long after finding true happiness with the love of her life in her new home, Derry. It’s been a hard couple of weeks.
Much has been said about what Lyra’s death means. As a catalyst for societal change in Northern Ireland to move us further on the journey to peace, or perhaps as a painful reminder of the dangers of rolling backwards, of political vacuum, and of hopelessness.
Although she – like many of us at times – strongly disliked the political landscape in this part of the world, Lyra believed in social justice, in the lives and dignity of her working class communities, in the value of facing uncomfortable truths wherever they lie, and in the concept of working together, as foes, and later as friends.
Throughout her life. she tirelessly stood up for her mother, a disabled North Belfast woman with an untameable wit, and for her right to respect and comfort. She stood up for people who loved like she did, because she was gay as the hills. She investigated past wrongs and injustices so that future rights could be made.
As leaders of this wretched, beautiful place, I beg of you to work to better our society as Lyra so tirelessly did. I beg of you to look each other in the eye and consider what you can move forward on together. I beg of you to let down your guard a little.
If Lyra was known for one thing, it was perhaps for her ability to bring together disparate people in friendship, for a cause, and to a destination.
There’s a whole lot of cynical apathy in the north of Ireland right now, as there has been for a very long time. This isn’t news to many, but what Lyra was so keen for was to move beyond this, like the majority of people here.
My heart has broken in two over the last fortnight. Many hearts have. Lyra was dear to many of us, and now that the headlines are moving on, we’re watching closely to see what you do next.. When you come together as leaders for new talks over the months ahead, please think about how you publicly spoke about Lyra after her murder, and act in a way that honours her legacy, and takes away the power of those who took away her life. We love you, Lyra. Rest in peace and rest in power.