There is little doubt that the murder of Lyra McKee was the most significant event in Northern Ireland in 2019. Lyra was a symbol of our new hope; a generation after the Troubles, taking us somewhere new.

Those shots in Derry/Londonderry were an assault on that hope. It was like we all got hit but only Lyra died. It was tragic not only for her partner and her family but all of us.

Then there was that sermon. Or that line in that sermon. My good friend Fr Martin Magill seizing the moment. Actually not being aware that a moment in his sermon was going to be seized. I had read that line the night before, when he asked some of us to go over the script. I didn't see it coming. Nor did he. 

He commended the politicians for responding together in the Creggan. That was Martin. Encourage them. Spark something. Then that pause... There was no pause in the script that I read off the page. BUT that pause was the power to come...

"I am however left with a question: ‘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 us to this point?’"

In the middle of a paragraph it seemed harmless enough but here in St. Anne's Cathedral in the high emotion of a funeral with all the political leaders from across two nations. Something went off. I still do not know where. A clap. Then two. Then hundreds. People on their feet. A cathedral on its feet. A country on its feet.

I was watching in Ballycastle and I was fist pumping the sky, "Go Martin. Get in there!" I was his biggest fan now (I might have been for a while) and tears welled up. 

Meanwhile Martin is trying to find his place. As surprised as everyone by this impact. A moment of God. I have no doubt. A moment of frustration from a country without a government for over two years. I am certain. A moment of hope that maybe the people on the ground could send a message to their politicians. They did!

I was so excited. I wanted to speak to Martin. Eventually he phoned. He handed the phone to Anna Burns who he had met in the crowd. I loved Milkman. Meeting a hero is one thing. Being on a phone that she is on the other end of is another. I froze. She froze. "Loved your book". "Thanks." "Bye".

I asked Martin how the pop star was. He didn't understand. He understood soon enough. I watched the wake of the wave ripple out across the world. He was in the wave and didn't see. Until the TV cameras came. Martin is not one for the headlines. He rang everyday. For some grounding. He was a pop star!

In those days, interview after interview, Martin was immense. He handled it so well. He said the right things at all the right times. My respect soared. A friend messaged me, "Your Robin just became Batman!" I was proud as punch to be his Robin! It gave Martin a voice that he continues to use pastorally and prophetically. 

Martin will say that the politicians missed that moment. They did. They missed the message from the people. Again. They missed a message from Lyra's generation. Again. 

Yet, I do not believe the people did. Or Lyra's generation did. We need to keep that wave going up behind the politicians. Lyra's Crossroads I called it. May we take the right road. The road that Martin helped nudge us down.


The sky went black

On Good Friday morning

When the news headlines

Told us you were murdered

Shot dead, doing your deepest gladness

One of the Ceasefire children

Shot by one of the Ceasefire children

One looking forward

The other looking back

One bringing us together

The other tearing us apart

It was not a Good Friday.


In your case

It didn’t take until Sunday

For resurrection

We couldn’t wait, for fear of the worst

And your life couldn’t wait, so full of the best

In the same sentences that told your death

Your life bloomed and bulldozed through

The darkness hit your flesh

But it missed your light

A star that shines on

Brighter than ever


You were our hope

But though they tried to make you past tense

You are still our hope

People are now being inspired

To make judgements without being judgemental

To revere the past without worshiping it

To doggedly hold a bone of truth

In the gentlest of a grace soft mouth


Politicians, years without speaking

Standing side by side

With whispers

Suspiciously grace impregnated

A palpable hope of new life

The potent power of a new seed



And in your craftiest trick of all

You got the Churches out of their cold war

At peace in the same building

Sharing your city with a better future

With all your friends and all their opinions

For you it was always about everyone

And everyone was there

Even those enemies


And your friend, Fr Martin Magill

Learning about Hufflepuff

And The Lost Boys

Drawing comparisons with Jesus blood shed

And Resurrection

He commends the politicians,

Who stood together in the Creggan

Then, preacher perfect… pauses… to ask a question

“Why in God’s name did it take the death of a 29 year old woman

With her whole life in front of her…”

The congregation finish the sentence

Like a jury’s condemnation


Yet not applause

More like Amens with hand claps

Rippling across the pews 

Then a standing ovation of "preach it"

It goes on

Like the sound of peace

Flowing up the hill to Stormont Buildings



The sound rings around Lyra McKee Crossroads

A landmark

Where a young woman’s gifted legacy

And a Kairos moment collide

Into Beatitudes

Of Transformation

We can see why you loved those words of Jesus


Hungry for Justice



Like the future you lived

An alternative Ulster indeed!


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