On April 18th, 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was killed while covering riots in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. McKee was fatally shot while near police cars and was hit when protesters began shooting toward the police, described as “the enemy” by the perpetrators. She was taken into a police car, which drove past a burning car barrier set by protesters earlier on, and rushed to the hospital.
As of late, there has been the re-emergence of dissident nationalist movements in Northern Ireland, comprising this riot in Londonderry. The “New IRA” has taken responsibility for the loss of McKee. This group grew out of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) largely responsible for the Troubles in the country for 30 years and officially ended in 1998. In a statement from the New IRA, an apology was issued for the loss of McKee with an excuse that she was caught in an attack against the enemy (the UK police), and claimed it was the police that provoked the attack. The riots began the night of the 18th as police came searching for arms suspected to be being stocked by nationalists in the area.
In 1997, the IRA agreed to a ceasefire of the Troubles conflicts which led to the creation of the “Good Friday Agreement” in 1998 that laid out the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The IRA has since shifted to peaceful political means of attaining their goal of a united Ireland. The New IRA, however, is comprised of “volunteers” who do not agree with the switch to peaceful means of attaining unity, and organize and encourage riots like the one in Londonderry.
The violent riots and loss of McKee reflect the danger of the New IRA’s methods. If innocent people are dying, something is not right. It is especially concerning to see the same issue that lead to the death of 3,500 during the Troubles beginning to take innocent life again. How can both the unionists and nationalists be satisfied while wanting opposite things? There is hope in the fact that all six of Northern Ireland’s political parties have united in denouncing the situation. They came together in a public statement saying, “it was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.”
The six political parties from both sides of the controversy have had significant differences that prevented their ability to create a coalition government for the past two years. With the hope of their unity front in denouncing the New IRA’s actions despite differing beliefs about a unity Ireland, there is hope that New IRA volunteers will come to a similar understanding of rejecting violence.