Church leaders heartbroken after murder of young journalist Lyra McKee during Londonderry violence

Lyra McKee(Photo: Facebook)

Church leaders have spoken of their anguish after promising young journalist Lyra McKee was killed during violence in Londonderry on Thursday. 

Police have said the New IRA was "most likely" behind the killing of Ms McKee, who was shot at around 11pm during rioting in the Creggan housing estate in Derry. 

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Rev Ken Good, said he was "outraged" by the death of the 29-year-old. 

"My first thoughts, today, are with her partner, her family and friends. I sympathise with them in their heart–breaking loss and assure them that their pain is being felt right across our community," he said. 

He said that Ms McKee's death was "needless" but also "not entirely unforeseeable" after a carbombing outside the city's courthouse in January. 

"On that occasion a group of young people were lucky to escape unscathed. Sadly, the outcome that I feared then – if such reckless attacks were to continue – was realised last night, and Lyra McKee, a talented young journalist, paid the ultimate price," he said. 

"The people responsible for her murder – the individual who pulled the trigger and the leaders who sanctioned the attack – have this young woman's blood on their hands.

"They claim to be liberators of the community. In reality, they are its oppressors." 

The bishop said the city needed to move forward in hope and reject violence.

He said: "Today, on Good Friday, Christians remember the bleakness of Christ's death on the cross but we look forward to the hope that Easter will bring. Today, this city – and our community – are numbed and horrified by what happened in our midst last night; we stand poised between bleakness and hope. The time has come to choose.

" I urge the people of this city to go forward with hope. I urge them to turn their backs on the men of violence, and to reject those who advocate bombing and shooting as solutions to our problems." 

Father Joseph Gormley, who anointed Ms McKee in Altnagelvin Hospital last night after she was shot, described the heartache of her family to the BBC. 

"[Ms McKee's family] just thought it was somebody else, it had to be somebody else - it wasn't Lyra," he said. 

"I would love if those people who had fired those shots came over and saw what they did in Altnagelvin last night, if they came over and saw that scene of a young woman and her family.

"This is their Good Friday and we have to stand beside them...on this terrible cross that has been visited by such an evil act."

He made a similar appeal to the community to make a stand for peace. 

He said of the perpetrators: "How dare they set themselves up as some sort of arbitrator for disputes within our community."