We have few details of what happened during rioting in Derry last night, other than the shuddering sadness that a young journalist lost her life. But there are some things it’s reasonable to assume.
The first is that Lyra’s death will give some people hope. Hope that this tragedy will drain support from the New IRA just as the Omagh bomb drained support from the Real IRA. Whether that hope is well-founded remains to be seen.
The second is that the New IRA gunman – assuming that’s who fired the shot that killed Lyra McKee – was very probably hoping to wound or kill a member of the PSNI rather than a young journalist. Even the New IRA are unlikely to be that stupid. However, if you fire a pistol towards a group of people, you bear full responsibility for any injury caused. In this case the injury was lethal.
The third thing is that there will be those who will not hesitate to use the death of Lyra McKee, not yet buried, for their own ends. The DUP leader Arlene Foster has declared “A family has been torn apart.” And in the next breath added “Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s and 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019.” Even as southern politicians have always been emphatic in denying any link between the IRA of our most recent Troubles and the IRA of one hundred years ago, Mrs Foster has grabbed this opportunity to link the actions of the New IRA with those of the Provisional IRA.
When I heard the news of the young woman’s death this morning, it came with a brutal surprise similar to that I felt when I heard of the death of Ronan Kerr, the young Catholic PSNI officer killed in Omagh by dissident republicans several years ago. The late Martin McGuinness responded to that by denouncing the perpetrators as traitors to Ireland. However, since that time Catholic recruitment to the PSNI has dropped disastrously. What part Ronan Kerr’s killing played in that slump it’s impossible to say, but my suspicion is that it has been a factor. At the time many people, myself included, denounced Ronan Kerr’s killing as cruel and perverse. Yet that death didn’t end the violence of republican dissidents. Sad to say, the death of Lyra McKee probably won’t either.
I mentioned at the top the question of how stupid the New IRA might or might not be. The fact that they are engaging in reckless violence at a time when Brexit has brought us within viewing distance of constitutional change shows that their stupidity runs very, very deep.