New IRA admits attempting to murder police officers
The New IRA has admitted responsibility for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee and admitted that the person responsible had been aiming at nearby police officers.
The 29-year-old was shot in the head last week while standing near a police vehicle to observe the rioting in Londonderry’s Creggan estate.
In a statement sent to the Irish News in Belfast, using a recognised codeword, the paramilitary group said: “On Thursday night (April 18) following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British Crown forces, which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage.
“We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy and put in place measures to help ensure this. In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces. The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”
The statement prompted an immediate backlash with the Police Federation of Northern Ireland condemning the group as “barbaric”.
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, said: “The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday agreement.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has expressed fears about the emergence of “a new breed of terrorist”. Last month, the same group claimed responsibility for a series of parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow.
There is growing concern about the apparent radicalisation of youths in deprived areas where there has been no peace dividend.
The PSNI confirmed it has arrested a 57-year-old woman in connection with the shooting. Two teenage men who were arrested on Saturday (April 20) for questioning were later released without charge.
Inquiries are continuing but Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said there had been a “palpable change” in community sentiment in support of their investigation, in terms of “off-the-record intelligence”. It is understood that police and the Public Prosecution Service have discussed what measures could be available to protect witnesses fearful of giving evidence at trial.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was due to make a statement in the House of Commons today (April 23). She will also be among political leaders who will attend Ms McKee’s funeral on Wednesday (April 24).
A protest by friends of Ms McKee took place on Monday (April 22) outside the office of Saoradh, a political group linked to the New IRA. A number of women smeared red paint in hand prints on republican slogans outside the office.
The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012. It followed the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA, which itself was born out of a split in the mainstream Provisional IRA in October 1997 over Sinn Fein’s embrace of the peace process. To date, the New IRA has been linked with four murders.
Ms McKee’s killing came 21 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in Northern Ireland. The 1998 peace deal marked the end of decades of violent conflict – known as the Troubles – involving republicans and loyalists, during which 3,600 people are estimated to have died.