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.

Just Posted

Abbotsford mayor: Can city cut weedy medians and bill province?

Residents keep complaining about poorly maintained highway median

Nitro Circus landing in Abbotsford in May

Popular action sports event tour bringing ‘You Got This’ tour to Rotary Stadium

Developer hopes to build 300 homes near Highstreet

City of Abbotsford has also received application for a large apartment building on McCallum

Abbotsford’s Lucie Romeo earns Olympic funding

Local youth rugby player one of 30 named to RBC Training Ground Program

Abbotsford Pilots continue up-and-down season

PJHL club wins in Langley, shutout on home ice by Mission

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Workers’ camp at LNG facility in Kitimat takes shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations

Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges

238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours

Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades

Most Read