This poignant new Channel 4 documentary honours the life of trailblazing journalist Lyra McKee

Three years after celebrated Belfast journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Northern Ireland, a poignant new Channel 4 documentary honours her incredible life story.

In April 2019, the senseless murder of a 29-year-old woman named Lyra McKee sent shockwaves around the world. One of Northern Ireland’s most promising young journalists, McKee was shot dead as she observed rioting in Londonderry in a terrorist incident that was later claimed by dissident republican group The New IRA.

Three years after her passing, Channel 4 has announced that it will air a poignant film that gives an insight into the life of the trailblazing journalist.

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The intimate film, titled Lyra, has very special roots. Not only has it been made by McKee’s close friend and Bafta award-winning documentarian Alison Millar, but the film repurposes salvaged voice recordings and interviews from Lyra’s own dictaphone so she can narrate her own story.

Through these text messages, home movie footage and archives from the past and present, the viewer will be able to go beyond the news headlines that announced her tragic death and become more familiar with McKee’s life.

The film also offers intimate access to Lyra’s mum; her sister, Nichola; and partner, Sara, who capture the raw pain and quest for justice throughout the days and months that followed McKee’s death. 

A mural of Lyra McKee in central Belfast

A celebrated Belfast investigative journalist, McKee was a rising star in the world of journalism, and her work had been published internationally for Buzzfeed, Private Eye, The Atlantic and Mosaic Science.

She was also named Sky News’ young journalist of the year in 2006, while Forbes magazine had named her as one of their 30 under 30 in media in Europe in 2016. McKee had also signed a two-book deal with the publisher Faber and Faber and was set to release her debut novel The Lost Boys in 2020.

A passionate gay rights advocate, McKee had a track record of giving a voice to communities who had either been silenced or forgotten. She shone a light on difficult issues specific to Northern Ireland, such as post-conflict suicide, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and unsolved crimes, and she was determined to investigate the neglected injustices of Northern Ireland’s past which cross over religious lines.

A mourner at the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee in Belfast in 2019

“Lyra’s death was, to many, a sharp puncture to the future of a country trying to move beyond its past,” said director Alison Millar.

“I hope this documentary will introduce a new audience to Lyra and her work. The film is an urgent story that reflects life today in contemporary Northern Ireland as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Lyra’s story and work represents her generation and reminds us why we cannot allow the dark shadows of the past to return.” 

“As a Belfast native I have always been cautious about making films about The Troubles,” added Siobhan Sinnerton, executive producer for HiddenLight.

“But when brilliant Northern Irish director Ali Millar decided that she wanted to make a film about the life and loss of her friend and mentee Lyra McKee I knew it was going to be very special. And it is. Lyra was funny, kind, and trailblazing and her work and her stories tell us so much about why peace in Northern Ireland matters to us all.” 

Lyra will air on Channel 4 in 2023.

Images: Channel 4

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