Dissident republican group the New IRA admitted on Tuesday responsibility for killing Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in the city of Londonderry last week, in a statement to The Irish News.
The New IRA “offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death”, it said in a statement reported by the Irish newspaper, which said the paramilitary group used a recognised codeword.
McKee, 29, was shot in the head late on Thursday as dissident republicans clashed with police in the Creggan housing estate in Northern Ireland’s second city, also known as Derry.
She was reportedly standing near police officers when a gunman began shooting at them around 11pm.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the shooting happened when police were searching for munitions and firearms after tips that attacks were planned for the Easter weekend.
While admitting responsibility, the New IRA said McKee was killed during an attack on “enemy forces” and accused police of provoking the riot which preceded her death.
“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces,” the statement said.
“On Thursday night, following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage,” the New IRA statement said, according to The Irish News.
‘Pointless and futile’
In the wake of her death, Northern Ireland’s six main political parties – including rival unionists and republicans who have been unable to form a devolved government for more than two years – issued a rare joint statement.
“It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere,” it read.
Police arrested two men on Saturday in connection with the shooting.
The killing, the latest upsurge in violence to shake the troubled region, came in the run-up to Easter weekend, when republicans opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.
The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January.
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, which claimed more than 3,700 lives.
The IRA called a final ceasefire in 1997 and announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005, stating that it would seek to achieve its aims through peaceful political means.
The New IRA is one of a number of dissident republican paramilitary groups opposed to the shift towards non-violent tactics to bring about a united Ireland.
There have been concerns that paramilitaries could be seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.
McKee was writing a book on the disappearance of young people during three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. She was described by publisher Faber as a rising star of investigative journalism.
Her funeral will be held on Wednesday at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
“It’s going to be a celebration of her life”, her partner Sara Canning said in a Facebook post, urging people to wear Harry Potter or Marvel-themed T-shirts.
“I know she would love it.”