We need a Lyra McKee Law to penalise those who demonstrate or advocate for any organisation whose go
The murder of young Lyra McKee strikes deep at the core of our society, calling all of us to respond, not with the 'gotcha' politics of revenge, but with a cry from our better angels for the gentleness and devotion to integrity this young women epitomised in her public and private personae.
The cult of the gunman was a topic that fascinated her because she was working on a book called The Lost Boys.
It is a striking title, suggesting to me that she had a genuine grasp of the phenomenon of young men drawn to violence, or consumed by it in death.
Before she died she had been talking to my friend and colleague Kathryn Johnston about my books on the Troubles and she mentioned that she planned to buy a copy of Political Murder In Northern Ireland.
I have always been troubled by the shocking story of a lost boy in that book. He was a 12-year-old from the Falls area of Belfast who was abducted by his killers and taken to Shaw's Bridge on the edge of the city. He was made to kneel, his anorak was pulled over his head, and he was executed. He was a lost boy, now forgotten, and no one was brought to justice for his murder.
Perhaps Lyra hoped to tell us about him, or about many young men on both sides who were lost to violence, or who delivered it.
She might have read my book God And The Gun and decided that the loyalist killer Billy Wright had been a lost boy, too, who had to watch his sisters being abused in a Church of Ireland institution.
I would have been happy to have spoken to her about her lost boys. I feel, from all I have learned about her in these last few days, that she would have brought us a genuine understanding of the cult of the gunman. Was it a lost boy's bullet that killed her?
Her death has to mean something more than condemnation. People may demand the naming of a street after her, and that would be a fine gesture, but I think there has to be something much more decisive. It is time for society to pass a Lyra McKee Law to penalise those who demonstrate, advocate or raise money for any organisation whose aim is to effect political change through the pursuit of violence. The law could be equally applied to all political parties.
We have to remove the cult of the gunman from our discourse. Romanticising violence gave us more lost boys and lost journalists like Lyra McKee and Martin O'Hagan.