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Lyra review – brilliant life and tragic death of Northern Ireland’s fearless young reporter | Movies

Here is an admirable documentary about the brilliant life and tragic death of author and journalist Lyra McKee, shot dead in 2019 at the age of 29 by a stray bullet from the New IRA as she covered riots in Derry’s Creggan estate. Apart from being a grotesque homicide, perpetrated by swaggeringly unrepentant and clumsy extremists, the McKee killing represented a culture clash and a generational collision. An inspirational young LGBTQ writer, McKee came from a Republican community in Belfast, had written on depression among the post-Good Friday generation, challenged the UK government’s line on the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre, confronted homophobia in Catholicism and Islam, investigated the class inequality of the new peace dividend and – perhaps most importantly of all – started on what was set to be her first major work, a book entitled The Lost Boys, a study of the children who went missing during the Troubles, almost certainly in each case because they were witnesses to terrorist crime.

McKee was a young, fearless writer, a world away from the macho gangsters of old-school terrorism who still plied their trade, in thrall to the paranoia and buried shame which McKee understood but they didn’t. Moreover, McKee was a product of new media; she went directly to the riots when she heard about them, a first-hand observer instantly tweeting and shooting video, very different to the mainstream Troubles coverage of yesteryear, in which BBC or ITN reporters did grim pieces to camera the morning afterwards, repeating the official accounts from the army or the Provisionals, or, if they were there at the time, effectively embedded behind army lines.

The film gives a vivid and heartfelt portrait of this remarkable young woman, hearing from her family and her partner, with whom she first bonded over their love of Harry Potter. The film ends by pointing out that her funeral, which by general acclaim had become a virtual state occasion, was the first time the major politicians had met since the collapse of power sharing, and expresses the hope that her memory might be instrumental in restarting dialogue. Let’s hope so.

Lyra is released on 4 November in cinemas.

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Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash