For Lyra

On the evening of Thursday April 18th, a 29-year-old journalist and writer named Lyra McKee was shot by republican dissidents during a riot that took place in Derry. A few days later, I saw people carrying rainbow flags and slogans of love through Dublin city centre, honouring her memory. Yesterday was Lesbian Visibility Day, and I saw multiple articles circulating online, highlighting Lyra’s kindness, her bravery, her integrity, and her dedication to truth.

Much has been made of the fact that opposing political leaders briefly set aside their differences and sat together during her funeral. Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, President Michael D. Higgins, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn attended the funeral, as well as major political leaders in Northern Ireland, including the DUP’s Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald.

Yet I fully agree with the words of Father Martin Magill, who received a standing ovation during his eulogy when he said: ‘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?’ Northern Ireland has been left without an Assembly since January 2017, and in the aftermath of Lyra’s death, it has been disheartening to watch Northern politicians still refusing to budge, still blaming ‘the other side’ for all of their problems, and still refusing to meet each other halfway.

When I’m overwhelmed by the futility of it all, the only thing I can do is write.

For Lyra

What can grow in this barren soil?
Tangled roots
Barbed wire fences
And shouts of ‘the enemy’

Leaders say
We will not capitulate
Or compromise
On our hard issues
Our closed borders
Our blood red lines

You embodied truth
In absolute madness
You flew the flag
For tolerance
Courage
Joy
Light
And liberty.

In barren soil
Your pleas went unheard.

And still
They speak of
No compromise
On hard issues
Closed borders
Blood red lines

Yet in those who have
Eyes to see
And audacity to love
The soil will be nourished again.

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