Lyra McKee, a 29-year-old journalist and LGBT-rights advocate from Northern Ireland, was shot dead on April 18 while covering a riot in Derry.
Her death, which rocked the journalism community, has been attributed to terrorists.
“Lyra was a ball of energy, passion and wit. To know her even a little was an inspiration. She brought intensity and integrity to everything she did in her too-short life,” Ina Fried, a journalist with Axios and Lyra’s friend, said. “She was also a proud and vocal part of the LGBTQ community and sought out older queer journalists. She wanted to learn from us but I learned so much from her — particularly what true dedication looks like. I wish that lesson hadn’t come with such a tragic exclamation point.”
Lyra was a promising investigative journalist as well as champion for LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, where she dreamed of seeing legalized marriage equality. One of her most-famous pieces is a letter she wrote to her 14-year-old self, published in The Guardian.
“Three months before your 21st birthday, you will tell Mum the secret. You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. Christmas will be just a couple of weeks away. You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt any more. You can’t get the words out so she says it: “Are you gay?” And you will say, “Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.” And instead of getting mad, she will reply “Thank God you’re not pregnant.”
It was a clarion call to all the young LGBT kids that it was OK to be who they are, to love who they love, in a place that doesn’t make that easy.
On Valentine’s Day, McKee wrote about finding love and her love for her partner, Sara Canning, in the Belfast Telegraph.
“I realised that love isn’t just what you feel, it’s what you do when everything is falling apart and the person you love needs you. I have been so blessed, in my life, to have both felt that kind of love and had it returned tenfold to me.”
According to an BBC interview with Ciarán Ó Maoláin, the Belfast secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Sara was with Lyra when she died.
Lyra wrote for many publications, including BuzzFeed, the Atlantic, and Mosaic Science, and had recently signed a two-book deal with publisher Faber and Faber. Her book, The Lost Boys, about the disappearance of children in Belfast in the 1970s, is expected to be published in 2020.
Her work garnered international attention. Lyra worked as an editor for Mediagazer from her home in Belfast, and in 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of the 30 Under 30 in media. Lyra also authored Angels with Blue Faces, a non-fiction novella about a cold case from the Troubles.
Lyra believed in people, and said so in her TEDx talk about LGBT equality, which she dedicated to the victims of the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as well as LGBT people who have died of suicide.
In her talk, she said she believed that life gets better and invited anyone “uncomfortable with the thought of someone like me, please come up to me after this event and talk to me. I won’t bite your head off. I won’t call you a homophobe, we’ll just have a conversation and I’ll show I am human just like you.”
Twitter user Miriam Kennedy had an idea for a fitting tribute to this fearless journalist: “Once marriage equality is allowed in Northern Ireland, it might be called the Lyra McKee Act.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up in Lyra McKee’s name, to go to her family for funeral expenses and however else they see fit to share her legacy.