Two teens held after killing of Northern Irish journalist

VIDEO: REUTERS
Journalist Lyra McKee was shot in the head on April 18, 2019, by, police believe, dissident republicans linked to the New IRA paramilitary group as they clashed with police in Northern Ireland.
Journalist Lyra McKee was shot in the head on April 18, 2019, by, police believe, dissident republicans linked to the New IRA paramilitary group as they clashed with police in Northern Ireland.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Two teenage men have been arrested after the shooting death of a journalist in Northern Ireland, police said on Saturday (April 20).

The two, aged 18 and 19, were arrested in Londonderry under anti-terror laws and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said.

Journalist Lyra McKee was shot in the head late on Thursday in Derry by, police believe, dissident republicans linked to the New IRA paramilitary group as they clashed with police on the Creggan estate in Northern Ireland's second city.

Tributes to the 29-year-old were led by her partner, Ms Sara Canning, who said McKee's "amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said: "We are all full of sadness after last night's events. We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past."

Detectives hunting the gunman had released footage of the unrest, hoping that the community would help trace her killers.

Belfast-born McKee, 29, had posted an image from the riots, accompanied by the words "Derry tonight. Absolute madness".

 

Images of the unrest on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.

Police chief Mark Hamilton said on Friday "a single gunman fired shots in a residential area of the city and as a result wounded Ms McKee".

Some officials blamed Thursday's unrest on the "New IRA", a republican paramilitary group opposed to the shift towards non-violent tactics to bring about a united Ireland.

The Saoradh party denies being the political wing of the New IRA (Irish Republican Army).

Saoradh said on Friday that "heavily armed" police went in to Creggan "to attack republicans in advance of upcoming Easter Rising Commemorations".

"The inevitable reaction to such an incursion was resistance from the youth of Creggan," added the statement.

While violence has largely died out since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, tensions continue to simmer, possibly fermented by Brexit.

Derry is closely bound to the EU, with about 78 per cent of voters backing "remain" in the 2016 referendum.

In January, a car bomb exploded in the city, and some Irish politicians have warned that a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit could further stoke tensions.

Still, there there seems little prospect of the widespread conflict that claimed 3,500 lives erupting again. In the year through April, two security related deaths were recorded, three fewer than occurred during the previous year.

"This news, coming on Good Friday, is a dark reminder to us all that our peace is fragile and that we must protect it every day from those who want to shatter the progress that we have made," said Mr Colum Eastwood, a local member of the region's power-sharing assembly.