8 May 2019

Lyra McKee’s partner: Theresa May ‘derelict in her duties to Northern Ireland’

Chief Correspondent

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Sara Canning reveals Lyra had been planning an ‘incredibly romantic’ proposal – and they were supposed to get engaged this week. She also accuses her killers of being ‘no better than paedophiles’.

The partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee has revealed the pair were supposed to get engaged this week – with Lyra planning an “incredibly romantic” proposal.

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Sara Canning compared those who killed Lyra to paedophiles – not sexually, but in violence.

Canning also revealed that, at the funeral, she told Theresa May that she had been “derelict in her duty to Northern Ireland”.

“To tell us that issues like gay marriage and abortion rights are a devolved matter is completely out of order,” she said.

At the funeral, she also told Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley that she was “doing a pretty terrible job,” and her lack of knowledge about Northern Ireland was “appalling”.

In a wide-ranging interview Canning also said:

  • That Lyra had been planning an “incredibly romantic” proposal that would have happened yesterday – the day of the interview – at a lake house in Central Park.
  • The “mealy-mouthed apologies” by Saoradh and the New IRA were “absolutely pathetic statements”.
  • That those responsible for Lyra’s murder were “no better than paedophiles” who are “grooming young men and women”.

Speaking about Lyra’s murder, Canning said: “It was so indiscriminate. There was no regard for human life … They took away an amazing person. I’ve lost the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. I was supposed to get engaged today in Central Park. We’d planned the rest of our lives together and in one split second some idiot with a gun took that away.

“And then the mealy-mouthed apologies and back-tracking and absolutely pathetic statements that were issued by Saoradh the New IRA. You can’t apologise for killing someone. You can’t call it an accidental shooting. You fire a gun at a crowd, that’s not an accidental shooting. You’re aiming to shoot someone. I mean, it’s ridiculous. They’re not defending anyone. They’re literally a scourge on their communities. They’re a scourge. They are a scourge.”

She added: “They are grooming young men and women. They’re no better – they speak out about paedophile gangs – but they’re no better than paedophiles. They literally take young people who are disenfranchised at the best of times, who are living in poverty, who don’t see a future for themselves in Northern Ireland because there is literally very little here for them. And they tell them that the way forward is a gun in their hand. The way forward is never a gun in your hand.”

Speaking about her comments to politicians in the wake of Lyra’s murder, Canning said: “I was speaking to Leo Varadkar and I said you need to facilitate these people sitting down at a table. And so I’m putting my trust in you – you’re a world leader, and you have a presence here. You need to use it for good.

She said: “Karen Bradley offered her condolences and I accepted them graciously. And I wasn’t rude. But I did tell her that she was doing a pretty terrible job as the Secretary of State. Her lack of knowledge around Northern Ireland was appalling. She needed to go and educate herself. How on earth she had taken a job where she had no knowledge of the area.

“She was very gracious I have to say. She nodded and she agreed with me that she had said things that were completely misguided and that she’s gone and educated herself.

“As a Derry woman, I had to say to her, to offer your condolences on Lyra when you have turned around and said that soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday were doing their job in a dignified manner. I said they are no different to the thug that opened fire in Creggan on Holy Thursday and shot Lyra.”

And, speaking about her conversation with Theresa May, she said: “I basically told her that she was massively derelict in her duties to Northern Ireland and successive governments have [been]. It’s not just been the Tory government. To tell us that issues like gay marriage and abortion rights are a devolved matter is completely out of order. We’re not a devolved state anymore. We’re completely unsuccessful. It has been shown that we can’t work together –so the British government has to be our government. And they have to be our voice and they have to do better. So, that was basically the message that I left with the Prime Minister.”

Discussing the future of Northern Ireland, she said: “Same sex marriage and an Irish Language Act are important. They are important, don’t get me wrong. But what’s more important is having a working government who are doing what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland. Because we are, we’ve been left adrift.

“There’s people missing out on operations and there’s schools missing out on funding. There’s head teachers having to go out and buy toilet roll for their primary schools, because they don’t have the funds to do that.”

And speaking about her relationship with Lyra, she said: “She had planned a really elaborate proposal at a lake house – on the lake in Central Park – which one of her best friends Kelsey has helped her plan. They had a PDF file and everything. They’d gone, [into] really minute detail. It was incredibly romantic, and she was such a thoughtful person.

“She put her heart and soul into everything for everybody. She was always making sure that people were okay and wanted to make everything as perfect as she could.”