A 29-year-old journalist was killed Thursday night in Northern Ireland in a “terrorist incident,” local police said. Lyra McKee, who had been observing a police operation in the Creggan area of the city of Londonderry, was shot dead, according to the police. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the shooting happened when police were searching for munitions and firearms after tips that terror attacks were planned for the Easter weekend. He called McKee’s death "horrendous and unjustified." “A single gunman fired shots in a residential area of the city and as a result wounded Ms McKee,” Hamilton said in a statement on Friday.
He said: “Officers quickly administered first aid before transporting her in the back of a Land Rover to hospital. Tragically she died from her injuries.”
Police believe dissident republicans are behind the incident and they blamed the so-called New IRA – a group which also claimed a car bomb in the city in January.
Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident “shocking and truly senseless.” She wrote on Twitter: “My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues. She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage."
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the killing in Derry was a “senseless loss of life.”
“I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight,” O’Neill said.
She said: “The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process, and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.
“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.
“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.”
“Heartbreaking news. A senseless act. A family has been torn apart,” Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said on Twitter.
She said: “Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019.
“No one wants to go back. My thoughts are also with the brave officers who stood in defence of their community.”
The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has been one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations between the U.K. and EU.
A deal reached by May and EU officials has been thrice rejected by the House of Commons mainly due to the backstop clause – a measure to avoid a hard Irish border.
Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in a 2016 referendum, and it is feared that the Brexit process could trigger enmity in the region.
A car bomb targeting a courthouse in Londonderry (Derry) in January was blamed by local police on the New IRA.
1998 Belfast Agreement
The Troubles – an era of conflict between the British government and pro-British paramilitaries on one side and Irish republicans and nationalists on the other – ended in 1998 after the Belfast Agreement put an end to decades of armed struggle in the divided U.K. region of Northern Ireland.
The U.K. and the Republic of Ireland signed the deal, brokered by the U.S. and eight political parties in Northern Ireland, on April 10, 1998.
The deal – dubbed the Good Friday Agreement – largely saw the end of the Troubles-era violence, in which some 3,500 people lost their lives.
The agreement committed the U.K. and Irish governments to respect the “principle of consent.”
If a vote on Irish unification got a positive result, the agreement specifies that "it will be a binding obligation on both governments to introduce and support in their respective parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish."