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Priest says outsiders caused riots that led to death in Northern Ireland

  • Freelance journalist Lyra McKee poses for a photo in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in this 2017 file photo. (CNS photo/Jess Lowe Photography via Reuters)
  • A car burns during riots in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, April 18, 2019. (CNS photo/Leona O'Neill via Reuters)

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LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland (CNS) -- A priest who ministered to an independent journalist killed by paramilitaries described the killers as "anti-Christ."

Lyra McKee was shot April 18, Holy Thursday evening, while she covered a riot Londonderry, just on the border with the Irish Republic. McKee, 29, was killed by a gunman who was shooting at police.

Her death came as the region was getting ready to mark the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to 30 years of sectarian conflict. Police suspect McKee was killed by so-called dissident republicans opposed to the deal.

Father Joe Gormley, the local parish priest, told BBC Radio Foyle April 19 that after McKee had been taken to hospital, "I went and anointed her. ... her family and her partner have great dignity.

"Many of her friends were there last night, and they were all shocked as well. They have great dignity, but they are feeling the loss this morning. The shock, for them, is awful."

He said his whole parish was stunned by the killing and accused those outside the area of being behind the attack.

"Our parish is full of so many good people, and these (other) people come into our area and use us to carry out such vile acts. How dare they. How dare they," he said.

"They have done it in this Holy Week. They have done it in a way that is totally, totally anti-Gospel and literally anti-Christ," he said.

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry also condemned the killing.

"Anyone who fires shots in the middle of a highly built-up area is absolutely off their rocker," he said.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of All-Ireland, took to Twitter to react to the attack: "On #GoodFriday morn, 21 yrs after our historic peace accord, we wake up to shocking news of pointless, violent death on the streets of #Derry," he said, using the name Catholics use for the city.

"Please pray for her family, friends and colleagues today who must now carry such a heavy cross of grief and pain. Rest in peace," he wrote.

Easter is frequently a tense time in the region since it marks the anniversary of the 1916 rebellion that eventually led to independence for the 26 southern counties of Ireland. Those opposed to continued British rule in the remaining six northeastern counties, Northern Ireland, frequently protest at that time of year.

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