Journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland rioting

Journalist Lyra McKee smiles outside the Sunflower Pub on Union Street during a portrait session in Belfast, Northern Ireland May 19, 2017. (Jess Lowe Photography/Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2019
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Journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland rioting

  • An eyewitness told the BBC that a gunman fired indiscriminately into a crowd during riots on the crowded Creggan housing complex
  • Hamilton said the force's assessment "is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry"

LONDON: The dissident republican group, the New IRA, was most likely responsible for the fatal shooting of a journalist during overnight rioting in the city of Londonderry, police in Northern Ireland said Friday.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said 29-year-old journalist and author Lyra McKee died after she was shot during rioting in the Creggan area.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest Thursday evening.
"We believe this to be a terrorist act," he said. "We believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans."
Hamilton said the force's assessment "is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry."
A murder investigation has been launched but there have been no arrests. Hamilton appealed for calm to prevail on Easter weekend.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the death of McKee "shocking and truly senseless."
"She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage," May said.
An eyewitness told the BBC that a gunman fired indiscriminately into a crowd during riots on the crowded Creggan housing complex.
The New IRA is a small group of republicans who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army's embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as "The Troubles" that claimed more than 3,700 lives.
The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January. It is regarded as the largest of the splinter dissident groups still operating and has been linked to several other killings in the past decade.
There has been an increase in tensions in Northern Ireland in recent months with sporadic violence, much of it focused in Londonderry, also known as Derry.
McKee, the victim of the shooting, rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — "Letter to my 14 year old self" — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.
In the post, she described the shame she felt at 14 as she kept the "secret" of being gay from her family and friends and the love she received when she was finally able to reveal it.
McKee had recently signed a contract to write two books.
Hours before her death she tweeted a photo of the riot with the words: "Derry tonight. Absolute madness."
Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said he was shocked by the murder of a journalist "of courage, style and integrity."
He offered sympathy to "her partner, her family and many friends."


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 24 min 59 sec ago
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.