Last week, hateful messages of republicanism appeared in Creggan, just steps away from where McKee was shot by members of the ‘New IRA’ on April 18. One pictured a rat targeted by a gun alongside the warning “Informers will be shot. IRA”
Despite the overt attempts to stop the public from aiding the police with the prosecution of the perpetrators of McKee’s murder, detectives estimate that over 140 people have turned in information to the police.
Moreover, by the morning of April 6, the polarising slogans were replaced with ones inspiring unity – “our differences make us stronger” and “life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”.
Meanwhile in Belfast, 22 street artists, including the Dublin-based Emma Blake spray-painted a mural of a smiling Lyra McKee as part of the annual ‘Hit The North’ street art festival.
Festival organiser Adam Turkington noted that Emma Blake had spoken to McKee’s family and partner Sara Canning, who McKee had been planning to propose to, to get their blessing beforehand.
Beside the painting is the heartfelt message “It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.” The quote, from a letter McKee wrote to her 14 year-old self, reflects on the struggles McKee faced as a gay teenager growing up in Northern Ireland. It spread quickly online following her death, now having another layer of meaning – both standing in solidarity with LGBT+ people struggling with their identities, and calling for an end to sectarian conflict in the North.
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Just finished this mural of Lyra McKee. Sitting in the Sunflower bar now with a mutual friend of ours hearing stories about how she came along to his poetry night in this same bar, wrote a poem there and then on the night, performed it, and stole the night. . Talking to Lyra's family outside about how much she would have loved the mural, but also thought it was hilarious, and made us retake selfies infront of it. I didn't know Lyra, but I really wish I had. . Like many other people, Lyra's death has shocked and upset me. She was of a similar age to myself, and had, from what I can gather, a lot of the same beliefs and opinions as myself. Although her death has really upset me, I did not know Lyra, and I cannot even imagine how her loved ones are feeling. I just hope I have done her justice. . Nothing can bring Lyra back. Lyra did a lot of great work in her lifetime, and had a lot of great work still to do. She would have done great things. We won't get to witness the great work she would have done, but can make sure this never happens again. . In Lyra's words: Here's to better times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets. . Thanks to Lyra's family and partner Sara for being so supportive of this mural going ahead. Thanks to Adam from @seedheadarts for organising Hit The North festival every year. Thanks to @michellekuras for assisting me, to @jasonashford and to Jackie in KCC. . #lyramckee #belfast
The mural, located outside the Sunflower Pub on Kent St, was painted opposite street art by artist Emic that McKee had been pictured posing in front of. Further adding to the location’s significance is its proximity to St Anne’s Cathedral, where the journalist’s funeral service was held on April 24.
Turkington also pointed out that “street art has roots in activism and anti-establishmentism, but also in finding ways to communicate with each other about things that really are hard to talk about.
“It’s about place-making. And especially in the context of Northern Ireland, where we have these very divisive murals, street art for me in this context is all about building a shared space and finding a place that people can co-exist”.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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