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Daily news chief says murdered journalist Lyra McKee was an ‘editor’s dream’

Lyra McKeeA journalist shot dead while observing rioting has been described as an “editor’s dream” by a regional daily news chief.

Belfast Telegraph editor Gail Walker has this morning paid tribute to 29-year-old Lyra McKee, left, who died after being shot in the head on Thursday night.

A group calling itself the New IRA has admitted responsibility for the attack, and a 57-year-old woman has been arrested under the Terrorism Act in connection with Lyra’s death.

Lyra studied online journalism at Birmingham City University, and worked for titles including Private Eye and BuzzFeed, as well as the Bel Tel.

In a piece published today, Gail wrote that “everything about Lyra was about the light”.

She added: “The light she shone into dark corners, as an investigative journalist. The light she brought into the lives of those who knew her. The light her laughter splashed across a conversation on the phone, or through messages on social media.

“I first met Lyra through our mutual friend, Ruth, who had spotted her indisputable talent straightaway. Our friendship began as a professional one, but, as was typical of Lyra, became something I’m glad was more personal. A quick phone call about work would inevitably turn into half an hour’s chat.

“‘Okay, missus, got it,’ she’d say when I’d ring to commission copy. Lyra was an editor’s dream. Always ready to write, no matter how tight the deadline, or tricky the subject matter. ‘No probs, missus, I’m on it.’ She was gifted with a forensically sharp mind, a curiosity that could border on the obsessive and an ability to compose the most beautiful sentences.

“Sitting here with the sun glinting off my iPad, reading over her work, I’m struck by how the force for good that was her personality radiates out from so much of it. Empathy, love – and a wisdom way beyond her 29 years. Her age strikes me forcibly now because when talking – whether through sheer enthusiasm, or just all those ‘missuses’ – she often seemed even younger.

“Lyra was always generous and occasionally would thank me – as she did other journalists – for their support. I’d tell her I admired her writing so much.”

Belfast News Letter journalist Philip Bradfield has also paid tribute in a piece for his newspaper.

He wrote: “Part of her disarming charm was that her life – and her heart – were open books. All the more surprising, perhaps, because she grew up in Belfast and was openly gay.

“She was quite open about the challenges this brought in her formative years. And also about the real challenges she faced in taking an innovative and successful path to becoming an international journalist, author and speaker. At 29.

“Perhaps what made Lyra unique was that she decided these challenges would make her a better person. While she wore her values on her sleeve – she was a passionate advocate for LGBT rights – she also worked at maintaining genuine friendships with people who held very different views on this and other issues.”