Updated on Apr 24, 2019. Posted on Apr 24, 2019

    The Priest At Lyra McKee's Funeral Asked "Why In God's Name" It Took The Death Of A Journalist To Unite Politicians

    "I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning," said Father Martin Magill.

    A Catholic priest used his address at Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee's funeral to call out the senior politicians sitting in the congregation for being too slow to unite against violence prior to her murder last week.

    The priest at the funeral of Lyra McKee, the 29-year-old journalist killed covering riots in Derry, had a message for politicians attending the service

    Father Martin Magill, a family friend of McKee's, received a warm standing ovation from mourners when he made the point during his homily in Belfast's St Anne’s cathedral.

    He said: "Many of us will be praying that Lyra’s death in its own way will not have been in vain and will contribute in some way to building peace here. Since Thursday night we have seen the coming together of so many people in various places and the unifying of the community against violence."

    He went on: “I commend our political leaders for standing together in Creggan on Good Friday. I am however left with a question: ‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?’”

    Liam Mcburney / PA Wire/PA Images

    The hearse with floral tributes outside the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee outside St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

    At that point, the entire congregation broke into applause and rose to its feet for a standing ovation, which the assembled politicians joined awkwardly. They included the leaders of Northern Ireland's two main parties, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill, as well as British prime minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley.

    Northern Ireland has not had its devolved government since the power-sharing executive broke down two years ago over a dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

    Magill added: “I dare to hope that Lyra’s murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning. I detect a deep desire for this.”

    Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, prime minister Theresa May, president Michael D Higgins, and lord lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle during the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

    As well as the standing ovation inside the cathedral, Magill's speech received warm praised online.

    The catholic priest just turned the tables over in the temple and shamed the politicians. #LyraMckee bravo him. “I dare to hope...” he says.

    I am wholly unreligious however the Catholic Priest at Lyra McKee’s funeral has just said everything I wish I could said to every politician in that room. 👏🏼

    Extraordinary scenes. Spontaneous standing ovation at funeral of Lyra McKee as a priest delivers a direct message to politicians sitting at the front of the cathedral ...

    Never personally witnessed a Priest get political before but wow that was a brilliant speech towards the end and so very true. Now is the time for change! ✌🏻 #LyraMcKee #NotInMyName #NotInOurName

    A standing ovation in the middle of #LyraMckee's funeral when the priest asks the politicians in front of him why it took the death of a twenty nine year old to unite them. The most powerful thing I've ever seen.

    Magill, who is currently the parish priest in St. John’s in west Belfast, commended people in the local area who had contacted the police about the killing, saying they had stood up to "condemn this culture of violence and coercive control".

    He quoted one of McKee’s friends as he said: “The younger generation need jobs, they need a better health service and education. They need a life, and not a gun put in their hands.”

    He went on: "All of our young people need a life that gives them an aspiration for the future. As our politicians we need you to be working together to make that happen so that especially for those living in deprived areas that they will feel the peace process is working for them as well; and especially for young people living in these communities.”

    He asked the press and media, "which Lyra was so proud to be part of," to "report on what's being done in these areas. To praise good work where you find it, and report it where it is not happening."

    McKee was shot dead by members of the New IRA while covering a riot in Derry last Thursday evening.

    In London, journalists also held a vigil to commemorate her.

    We at BuzzFeed News are here at the vigil for Lyra McKee (at St Brides, the journalists’ church) to mourn her loss, to celebrate her, and to champion all that she stood for: equality, peace, justice. We need more like Lyra in our newsrooms - and in our world. #WeStandWithLyra

    CORRECTION

    Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neill's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.



    Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here