Published: 20 April 2019

Violence erupted in Londonderry on Thursday night CREDIT: NIALL CARSON/PA

Violence erupted in Londonderry on Thursday night CREDIT: NIALL CARSON/PA

“I didn’t know it was still going on,” is a comment I’ve heard frequently since Thursday night and the death of my friend Lyra McKee.

But close followers of the situation in Northern Ireland are all too aware that there are still plenty of violent people out there shooting, bombing and beating in the name of a United Ireland, a cause they use as an ideological fig-leaf to cover their selfish pursuit of power and money.

Today’s violent republican groups, most significantly the New IRA, are far weaker than the Provisional IRA ever was – and yet they still aspire to emulate the terrible things done during almost three dreadful decades of murder, mayhem, intimidation and brainwashing.

Sinn Fein, which signed up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, eschews physical force, although this has not stopped some of its members continuing to use the law, cultural aggression and propaganda to undermine power-sharing and deepen tribal tensions.

This involves party leaders saying that there is no longer any justification for what they call “the armed struggle” whilst some simultaneously continue to teach young people to hero-worship Provisional IRA terrorists.

Lyra McKee's murder caused international shockwaves CREDIT: PSNI

Lyra McKee’s murder caused international shockwaves CREDIT: PSNI

Northern Irish people are sick and tired of violence and desperately want a peaceful life.

However, it is not difficult to see how idealistic young people in republican communities can fall for the dissident argument that if what the Provisional IRA did was right, then what they are doing is right, too.

So – as did the IRA of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – they groom young people, teach them to hate, train them, blood them through rioting and arm them to kill selective targets.

The PSNI have had a very tight grip on dissidents, who are also heavily infiltrated by MI5, so although some kill or cripple those they consider a social nuisance and sometimes murder challengers in their own community, they rarely succeed in committing the kind of murder that gets much attention beyond Northern Ireland.

As it has before, the death of a policeman would have caused ripples in Dublin and London. On Thursday night in Londonderry, a gunman appears to have been trying to do just that.

Instead, his bullet killed a tiny 29-year-old woman who was much admired and loved beyond Northern Ireland and whose murder has made shockwaves internationally.

As intrepidly as ever, she was watching what was going on up close and tweeting about it.

Lyra, who was curious about everyone and everything, saw journalism as a vocation from childhood and spent her short professional life trying to understand and explain.

She hated tribalism and bigotry and connected effortlessly with people from different traditions and beliefs. A lesbian from a Catholic republican estate she became best friends with unionists and Protestant evangelists.

It is little consolation to all of us who have lost a lovely friend and a writer of rare talent, but what she  achieved in her short life will keep her memory alive and, we can hope, will do terrible harm to the evil cause of the perpetrators.

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