Journalist death spurs bid to restore Northern Ireland govt

Pressure on politicians to break the impasse has grown since the killing of journalist Lyra McKee

Britain and Ireland made a new push Friday to restore Northern Ireland’s collapsed government, responding to public outrage at the killing of a journalist by a banned militant group.

Talks will begin May 7 to revive the Catholic-Protestant power-sharing administration, which has been suspended for more than two years, the U.K. and Irish governments said. The negotiations will involve the two governments and all Northern Ireland’s main political parties.

“We have a narrow window in which genuine progress can be made and we must act now,” U.K. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said at a news conference in Belfast.

Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million people have been without a functioning administration since the power-sharing government collapsed in January 2017 over a botched green-energy project. The rift soon widened to broader cultural and political issues separating Northern Ireland’s British unionists and Irish nationalists.

Security officials have warned that the political drift in Northern Ireland — along with uncertainty around the status of the Irish border after Brexit — is emboldening groups that are bent on violence.

Pressure on politicians to break the impasse has grown since the killing of journalist Lyra McKee, shot dead last week by a member of Irish nationalist militant group the New IRA during rioting in Londonderry, which is also known as Derry.

READ MORE: What next? A new delay could prolong UK’s Brexit agony

McKee, 29, was a rising star of journalism, who had written powerfully about growing up gay in Northern Ireland and the struggles of the generation of “cease-fire babies” raised after the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended three decades of sectarian violence.

Her death drew condemnation from across the political divide. British Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland political leaders attended her funeral in Belfast on Wednesday.

In his homily, Father Martin Magill praised the united response of politicians, but asked: “Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?” Mourners rose to give him a standing ovation.

In a joint statement, May and Varadkar said they had heard ” the unmistakable message to all political leaders that people across Northern Ireland want to see a new momentum for political progress.”

“We agree that what is now needed is actions and not just words from all of us who are in positions of leadership,” they said.

READ MORE: Northern Ireland journalist is killed; police hunt suspects

Previous attempts to restore power-sharing between the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, and Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein have come to nothing. Sinn Fein has accused the DUP of prolonging the stalemate by refusing to back legal protection for the Irish language and by blocking same-sex marriage, which is legal everywhere in the U.K. apart from Northern Ireland.

“This time it’s different,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said at the Belfast news conference alongside Bradley. “I think there is a real understanding that Northern Ireland desperately needs its own government right now.”

Most of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups have disarmed since the 1998 peace accord. But a small number of dissidents refused to abandon violence, and have targeted police and prison officials in bombings and shootings.

The New IRA, the largest of the splinter groups, acknowledged responsibility for McKee’s death, saying she was shot accidentally “while standing beside enemy forces” — a reference to the police.

Police released video footage Friday of a stocky, masked man they say is suspected of shooting McKee and urged residents to help identify him.

“I believe he is the person who took the life of Lyra McKee,” Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said.

“People saw this young man and his associates. I think people in the community know who they are and I’m asking them today to come forward to help us.”

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crimson Coast Dance Society salutes African dance during Black History Month

Dancers from Mozambique, Rwanda and Cameroon to give demonstrations and lessons

Nanaimo Clippers, clad in Snuneymuxw jerseys, win in OT

BCHL team wins both its weekend games to stay in contention for first place on the Island

Nanaimo-bound ferry breaks down, but another available for service

Two sailings cancelled Sunday on Tsawwassen-Duke Point route

Air Canada will offer direct Nanaimo-to-Toronto flights again this year

Seasonal service will run from June until October

Nanaimo a capital city in the beard business – Wildman Beard Co.

Wildman Beard Co. gained early success with Nanaimo mill workers

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Woodlands proposed to house students during Cilaire seismic upgrades

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ plan awaits ministry of education approval

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Most Read