DUBLIN – Brexit tensions between Ireland and the United Kingdom were put to one side on Wednesday as hundreds of people turned out to bid farewell to slain journalist Lyra McKee on the streets of her native Belfast and at the Cathedral of St. Anne where a funeral service was attended by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his UK counterpart, Theresa May.
McKee was shot dead on April 18 in the Northern Irish border town of Derry by the Republican dissident group New IRA as she was observing unrest.
“Lyra was a person who broke down barriers and reached across boundaries,” said church Dean Stephen Forde. “This was her hallmark in life, this is her legacy in death.”
Also present at the service were the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, the leader of the UK opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and the main Northern Irish political leaders, in a sign of rejection of violence by the two great communities of the region, the Catholic-Nationalists and Protestant Unionists.
Priest Martin Magill received applause from those attending when he asked the mourners why it had taken her death to unite the parties.
McKee, 29, was shot by a masked man from the New IRA dissident group, an act that was criticized by the now inactive Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The journalist was an editor of the California-based Mediagazer portal, specializing in media news, as well as a prominent and well-respected figure and activist in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex community of Northern Ireland.
The funeral procession passed in front of the Kremlin, a well-known gay club which friends and colleagues had strewn with rainbow flags and banners in remembrance of McKee.
Another group of journalists formed an honor guard at the entrance to the cathedral and, once inside, some 600 people received the coffin with a standing ovation, which gave way to a multi-faith service officiated by Protestant and Catholic priests.
At the request of McKee’s family, many of those present wore T-shirts from the popular Harry Potter literary and film saga and from Marvel comics, of which she was a great admirer.