Queer journalist Lyra McKee, who was murdered on April 18, 2019, is to be honoured by the One Young World Summit as it names its Journalist of the Year Award 2023 the ‘Lyra McKee Award for Bravery’.
The One Young World programme, which aims to empower and develop young leaders to build a fair, sustainable future, will host its annual summit in Belfast this year as part of the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
This year’s summit will bring together young leaders from 190 countries and 250 organisations. Fittingly, the award will recognise five outstanding journalists under the age of 35 who are working to accelerate social impact.
Following the announcement, Nichola McKee Corner, Lyra’s sister, said the journalist would have been “blown away” by the tribute.
Speaking to the PA news agency, she commented, “(Lyra) would be emotional, and she would be so proud.
“But she would also be so pleased that she would be connected to such an amazing award that would help to inspire and influence and push forward other young people,” she continued.
“She wanted everyone to have truth and justice and wanted our little country here to become a better place. And the only way you can do that is by speaking out. And by telling the truth and by using your voice and Lyra did that.”
McKee Corner also believes that Lyra would find it “absolutely phenomenal” to be inspiring young people with the award.
One Young World managing director, Ella Robertson McKay, described, “Lyra was a talented and brave journalist who reported the truth without fear or favour and was a relentless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community before she was so tragically killed in 2019 on the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.”
She described naming the Lyra McKee Award for Bravery for the 2023 world summit as “a fitting tribute” to the journalist’s honour.
She added, “Highly respected by her peers, Lyra’s writing was so full of love and hope for the future, famously penning a letter to her 14-year-old self in which she describes journalism as ‘her calling’.”
Lyra was 29 years old when she was tragically shot in crossfire during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry. At the time of her death, the devolved government at Stormont was not functioning after it collapsed in 2017. Four years on, the government remains unresolved, leaving a growing political vacuum in Northern Ireland.
McKee Corner took the opportunity of the announcement to highlight how politicians had failed to uphold promises for change they made in the wake of Ms McKee’s death.
“Lyra’s funeral was one of the first times in a number of years that all of the political leaders were together in one building,” she said.
“And they had been making promises at that time that they would do what was necessary to get our political institutions back up and running. That was in April, by August, nothing had changed.”
She continued, “Because at the time Lyra was killed there was a political vacuum, as we know, which only gives opportunity for extremism to flourish. And opportunities are being lost and extremism is growing.
“Because if you don’t have a stable government, there is a tendency towards anarchy as well, which is what we saw in 2019, which is what we’ve seen intermittently throughout that time, and particularly in the last number of weeks.”
Earlier this month, 16 police officers were injured during rioting involving children as young as eight in the Creggan area of Derry – the same area where Lyra was fatally shot. The unrest arose following anti-terrorism searches carried out by the PSNI, which revealed guns and quantities of ammunition.
McKee Corner urged, “A lot more needs to be done about that. When we see that happening, it’s heartbreaking. Because it doesn’t need to be like this. It absolutely doesn’t.
“And things need to be done to change it. People need to learn to find a way to compromise.”
She added, “We keep taking steps forward, steps back. Seeing the violence, I despair, I just think has anybody learned anything?
“Because all it takes is one person coming onto the street with a handgun. Somebody’s child could be dead. Is that worth it? Because I don’t think it is.”
Recalling the personal toll she has suffered from such violence, she stressed, “It’s destroyed my family, killed my sister and my mum. I don’t want to see anybody have to go through that.”
The recipients of The Lyra McKee Award for Bravery will be announced at The One Young World Summit 2023 in Belfast from October 2 to 5. For more details, go to www.oneyoungworld.com.
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