Visible Women

Art becomes activism: A new mural has been dedicated to murdered journalist Lyra McKee

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Hollie Richardson
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Lyra McKee remembered at her funeral

Activists are continuing to remember murdered journalist Lyra McKee through art work, including a powerful new mural in Belfast.

Northern Ireland has long told its complicated political history through its murals and street art, with Belfast and Londonderry mostly providing the urban canvases for illustrating The Troubles and calls for peace. 

They still play a huge part in telling the story, with the Derry Girls cast recently unveiling a 10-metre high mural of themselves on the side of a pub in Derry. 

And now, following the murder of Northern Irish journalist and LBGTQ activist Lyra McKee who was shot in the Londonderry riots last month, a mural has been created and dedicated to her in her home city Belfast.

The striking painted image shows a smiling McKee alongside one of her own quotes, which reads: “It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.”

Dublin-based artist Emma Blake created the piece during the May Bank Holiday weekend along with 21 other artists as part of Belfast’s Hit North street art festival.

“I think what’s been really interesting is how the aftermath of Lyra’s death has played out in art on walls,” said festival organiser Adam Turkington. “Whether it’s the bloody handprints or whether it’s people painting over the IRA murals in Derry - that’s activism.”

He continued: “Street art has its roots in activism and in anti-establishmentism, but also in finding ways to communicate with each other about things that really are hard to talk about.

“It’s about aesthetic, it’s about place-making. And especially in the context of Northern Ireland, where we have these very divisive murals, street art for me in this context is all about building a shared space and finding a place that people can coexist.”

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Remembering Lyra McKee, a courageous woman killed while doing her job

This isn’t the first time that street art has been used to highlight McKee’s story, using art as activism.

Following her murder, there was a backlash against the new IRA and its political allies in the fringe party Saoradh. This led Lyra’s friends and activists to peacefully print their red painted handprints onto the party’s office in Derry.

Although she was just eight years old when the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998, McKee dedicated herself to investigating how the effects of decades of violence and division continued to reverberate down the generations in Northern Ireland.

Her first novel, The Lost Boys – which she was working on at the time of her death – was about growing up in a “conflict hotspot” in North Belfast, off the road known as Murder Mile.

This is why it is so important that we do not forget McKee’s legacy, and continue to explore the issues that she cared so deeply about. 

Image: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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