Lyra McKee: What's next for Northern Ireland?

  • Published
Lyra McKeeImage source, AFP/Jess Lowe
Image caption,
Lyra McKee was shot dead in Londonderry

"Where now? What are we going to do after today?"

That's the question many have been asking since the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee was held.

Anyone watching the service will have heard the words of Father Martin Magill, as he addressed those gathered in St Anne's Cathedral.

He asked: "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 to this point?"

He knew exactly where he was directing his criticism - right at the Stormont politicians sitting in front of him, who have been at odds over how to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Media caption,

"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 to this point?"

He welcomed the symbolism of the DUP and Sinn Féin leaders standing together in the Creggan last week - but pointed out how rare it is to see in these strained political times.

There are some who now feel Lyra McKee's death could be the turning point, a wake-up call for the political parties to resolve their differences.

Many hope it will be.

But sometimes optimism needs to be supported with a dose of realism.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Colum Eastwood, Naomi Long, Mary Lou McDonald and Arlene Foster were among political leaders at a vigil in Derry

The Reverend Harold Good, who played a key role in the peace process, knows this better than most.

He told the Stephen Nolan Show there had been other moments - including the aftermath of the Omagh bombing in 1998 - where "our hopes were that this would bring some kind of a turning of the tide".

He said Fr Magill's comments were a "moment of opportunity to challenge" the political leaders.

But have they taken on board what he was saying?

Already, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said he's not convinced that Ms McKee's murder is the beginning of real change.

His party leader Arlene Foster insists the DUP is ready to go back into government immediately - and wants the issues holding things up to be addressed alongside a return to power-sharing in a parallel talks process.

The DUP has always said it was merely a draft proposal, and that they were not close to signing anything on the dotted line.

And so we return to much of what has already been heard over the past two years, with neither party budging on its respective positions.

Image source, PAUL FAITH

Mrs Foster summed up the DUP view on Good Morning Ulster.

"It's not a balanced discussion if Sinn Féin get everything they want and my community is left with nothing, it can't be a five-nil situation," she said.

Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy followed that by saying that restoration of the assembly could not be a "quick fix" and that "certain conditions" must be met first before his party will go back into government with the DUP.

The other parties at Stormont have been making their own attempts to push for all-party talks.

But ultimately every party, and the British and Irish governments, need to buy back into the process.

Rebuilding trust

The problems at Stormont are not merely about resolving matters of culture and language. It is also about two parties rebuilding the trust that's needed to share power.

That point was raised by victims' campaigner Alan McBride on BBC radio on Thursday morning.

He said that, having listened to the politicians' latest remarks, he believes "the whole concept of being a good neighbour in this society is gone".

The parties will be aware that public opinion could swiftly turn against them if they do not take some kind of action.

But, for the moment, there are elections to fight in Northern Ireland - and in fierce campaign battles, there are not too many moments of compromise.

Politicians have been told to stop blaming each other and sort it out now.

But with the assembly now down for two years and counting, that challenge may be easier said than done.