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IRISH President Michael D Higgins will attend tomorrow’s Belfast funeral of journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead in a senseless attack during rioting in Derry last week.
Thousands of mourners are expected to pay their respects to Ms McKee, whose murder has been widely condemned across Ireland’s sectarian political divide.
Journalists are set to observe a minute’s silence at workplaces across Ireland and Britain in tribute to Ms McKee.
The service at St Anne’s Cathedral will be led jointly led by the dean Stephen Forde and Catholic priest Father Martin McGill. Ireland’s Tanaiste and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney will also attend the funeral.
The New IRA admitted today that it was responsible for killing Ms McKee, amid growing anger and revulsion at the group and its political wing Saoradh, formed from a merger of dissident republican groups which rejected the Irish peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
On Easter Monday, scores of friends of Ms McKee daubed the walls of the Saoradh headquarters in Derry with red palm prints, saying that the dissident group has “blood on their hands” after the shooting of the investigative journalist and author.
A Saoradh statement sent to the Irish Times said that Ms McKee had been shot by accident and “tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.”
Friend of Ms McKee Sinead Quinn said Saoradh needed to take responsibility for the killing, accusing the group of shirking it so far by claiming that the shooting had been accidental.
“You don’t shoot someone accidentally,” she said. “When you put a gun into someone’s hand and they shoot it, that’s murder.”
Ms Quinn added: “They are not a representation of republican people in this town. Those people don’t represent (republicanism). Nobody can advocate shooting into a crowd of people and shooting a 29-year-old woman dead.
“People have been afraid to stand up to people like this. We are not afraid.”
Police reported a “massive” public response” to their appeal for information on the killing and said the investigation was progressing at “a rapid pace.”
More than 140 people have been in contact via a public portal. Two teenagers arrested over the shooting were released on Sunday.
Ms McKee’s partner Sara Canning said the funeral would be “a celebration of her life and if people would like to wear Hufflepuff, Harry Potter or Marvel-related items, I know she would love it.”
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