Lyra McKees funeral taking place

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Media caption“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 to this point?”

A priest received a standing ovation at Lyra McKee’s funeral when he asked mourners why it took her death to unite political parties.

Political leaders attended a vigil in Londonderry following her death, and also her funeral at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday.

Fr Martin Magill asked: “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 to this point?”

Ms McKee was shot dead on Thursday.

She had been observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry. The New IRA said its members killed her.

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Fr Magilll’s strong message to the gathered political rivals brought mourners to their feet

A friend told mourners at her funeral that Ms McKee revealed her plans to propose to her partner Sara just hours before she was murdered.

Stephen Lusty said she showed him pictures of the engagement ring.

Prime Minister Theresa May, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar and other politicians were at the service.

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Leo Varadkar, Theresa May and Michael D Higgins sat at the front of St Anne’s Cathedral

“She showed me pictures of the ring she had bought for Sara and told me of the fabulous plans she had of her proposal in May,” said Mr Lusty.

“She made me put a date in my diary for the wedding in Donegal in 2022 and gave me strict instructions to wear my kilt, which she always wanted to borrow, adorn it with some Harry Potter, and to find or re-find my own version of Sara.”

Ms McKee’s sister, Nicola Corner, told mourners: “In the words of Lyra herself, we must change our own world, one piece at a time. Now let’s get to work.”

Also at the service was the clergyman who witnessed IRA decommissioning, the Rev Harold Good.

Many friends of the journalist wore Harry Potter-themed T-shirts, scarves and badges to the funeral service at St Anne’s Cathedral. Ms McKee was an avid fan of the series.

Speaking at the beginning of the service Dean Stephen Forde said: “Lyra was a person who broke down barriers and reached across boundaries, this was her hallmark in life, this is her legacy in death.

“As a journalist she pursued truth wherever it took her, never content with the sullen silence of unanswered questions.”

He added: “She was a child of the Good Friday agreement. She was a primary school pupil in north Belfast when the agreement was signed .

“She grew up to champion its hope for a society that was free from the prejudices of the past.”

‘Dark days’

Three people have been arrested over the murder, and all have been released without charge.

Fr Joe Gormley, who anointed Ms McKee after she was shot dead, told BBC News NI there was still a “great deal of shock” in Derry.

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Sara Canning (centre) was “planning to grow old” with her partner Lyra McKee

“But people are also reflecting and they know that we are faced with a choice in life,” he said.

“We either go back to the dark days or move forward.”

He said he was willing to “sit down and talk” to those responsible.

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Media caption‘Let us build… an alternative Ulster we can proud of’

Ms McKee had written for publications including Private Eye, the Atlantic, Mosaic Science and Mediagazer.

She had also signed a two-book deal with the publisher Faber and Faber, with her forthcoming book The Lost Boys due out in 2020.

Fellow members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) formed a guard of honour at the cathedral.

The union described Ms McKee as “one of the most promising journalists” in Northern Ireland.

There was also a gathering at Guildhall Square in Derry for those who could not attend her funeral.

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