A PRIEST prompted a standing ovation when he asked UK politicians why it took the death of journalist Lyra McKee to unite their parties.

“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 us to this point?” said father Martin Magill as he addressed the congregation.

His remarks came during a service attended by hundreds of mourners yesterday at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Irish premier Leo Varadkar, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney were among the politicians who went to pay their respects.

Ms McKee was killed by indiscriminate fire as she observed clashes between police and New IRA dissidents in Londonderry on April 18.

HeraldScotland:

Mrs May said afterwards: “We must do our utmost to ensure that that does not happen.”

The emotional service, which took place alongside separate vigils in London and Glasgow, focused on Ms McKee’s lasting legacy.

Those attending the funeral were asked to wear Harry Potter and Marvel Comics merchandise in tribute to the journalist’s passion for both.

Mourners formed a guard of honour outside the cathedral, clapping as Ms Kee’s coffin was carried into the building.

Wreaths at the funeral were made up of the rainbow colours of the LGBT+ flag.

The congregation was led by Ms McKee’s partner, aged 35, her mother Joan McKee, 68, brothers Gary and David and sisters Joan, Nichola and Mary.

Her family have paid tribute to a “gentle, innocent soul” whose “desire to bring people together made her totally apolitical”.

HeraldScotland:

Miss McKee’s sister Nichola Corner said she was the kindest and most gentle person the world will never forget.

“We can create a society where labels are meaningless.”

She added every single person should get the chance to grow up and make their dreams come true.

“This is Lyra’s legacy and we must carry it forward.

“This is the gift that God gave the world on the 31st of March 1990.

“We are all responsible for helping God’s will to be fulfilled, each and every one of us.”

She paid tribute to her sister’s bond with her mother.

She said: “Whilst a broken heart can never be mended and an empty space can never be filled, the unconditional love that they both shared for each other will continue for eternity.”

Loved ones told how the young reporter, who was gay and non-sectarian, had “broken down barriers” in a divided community in Northern Ireland, where she had worked for several years.

Fr Magill said: “To those who had any part in her murder, I encourage you to reflect on Lyra McKee, journalist and writer, as a powerful example of ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. I plead with you to take the road of non-violence to achieve your political ends.”

Since the killing many have condemned the culture of violence and coercive control practised by dissidents, the clergyman said.

“We need to send a very different message and so I appeal to those who have information about Lyra’s murder but who haven’t yet come forward to do so now.

HeraldScotland:

“If you want to see an end to these brutal rules, and see a new society built on justice and fairness, on hope and not fear, then you can help build that society by letting the police know what you know.”

He called on political leaders to break the Stormont negotiations impasse, adding: “I pray that Lyra’s murder may be the catalyst needed for parties to start talking, to reform that which was corrosive in previous assemblies and to begin anew.”

Miss McKee, who was an LGBT activist, revealed to a close friend plans to propose to her partner Sara Canning and get married in Donegal in 2022 just hours before she was murdered. Same-sex marriage is outlawed in Northern Ireland.

Friend Stephen Lusty said: “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.”

Northern Ireland police chief constable George Hamilton believes Ms McKee’s killers could be caught.

He added: “I suppose the outpouring of condemnation from the communities of Derry, Creggan all standing together in Creggan last Friday, was something I think was quite unique and quite different.

“We need to capitalise on that, we believe that the evidence to bring those responsible for Lyra’s murder is out there.”