On Friday the book Angels With Blue Faces by murdered journalist Lyra McKee was published posthumously by Excalibur Press on behalf of her family.
The book was completed shortly before Lyra died from a single gunshot fired by a dissident republican gunman in Derry on April 18th this year.
Lyra spend six years methodically researching the murder of UUP MP, Robert Bradford in November in 1981, uncovering many aspects of the case that had never before come to light.
Bradford’s death, and that of 29-year-old Ken Campbell has been the subject of speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding allegations that the MP was about to expose sordid details about who was involved in the Kincora.
Lyra interviewed Bradford’s friends, colleagues, and acquaintances as well as a number of other sources – and reveals how the MP’s killing might have been prevented by intelligence services.
Trawling through public records and documents she had procured during her search for the truth, Lyra spent most of her journalistic career in the pursuit of answers. In many cases, she came up against more questions.
In the book Lyra writes: “I began researching Angels with Blue Faces when I was 22 years old. It arose out of another story entirely, when I was blogging, filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and asking questions about a decades-old scandal involving a children’s home. At the time, I’d just begun working as an editor for a news site covering the media industry, based out of Silicon Valley, but I wanted to flex my muscles and prove to myself – and others – that I could report too. I’d spent years gaining experience through internships and then freelancing my way through university. Journalism could feel like a dying industry at times and – certainly at the regional level of Northern Ireland – there were few opportunities to do big, blockbuster stories in print. Meanwhile, though, in the United States, literary nonfiction of the New Yorker variety was seeing a renaissance, with sites and communities like Longform and #longreads popping up.
“Inspired by this movement and writers like Michael Hastings – an American war correspondent who sadly died on his own home soil in a horrific car crash, aged 33 – I wanted to do something similar, something I hadn’t seen done in Northern Ireland before, and write a nonfiction story that read like a novel.
“This was an ambitious undertaking for a young, still ‘wet behind the ears’ journalist. I’d known people who’d been in the IRA but only to see in the local area, as they went about their non-paramilitary related business. Growing up in the Catholic community in Northern Ireland – who had a historically uneasy relationship with the local police, for a variety of reasons – meant I didn’t know any cops or people who’d worked in the security services.
“I developed the contacts I needed, from police to ex-prisoners, often thanks to kind, veteran journalists who took pity on me and made introductions to people they’d known. The BBC’s Chris Moore, Belfast Telegraph columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards, and Anthony and Carrie McIntyre did this frequently. Some of said contacts found me or vice versa.
It’s taken a long time to get this book into print.
Lyra’s writing is almost poetic, as seen in her description of her homeland, “Northern Ireland is a beautiful tragedy, strangled by the chains of its past and its present. It’s a place full of darkness and mysteries. It’s also my home. Sometimes, I love it and hate it in equal measure. Yet, despite being a tiny country, we disproportionately contribute talent to the rest of the world.”
Lyra’s sister Nichola McKee Corner said she was proud to see Lyra’s book being published.
“Lyra put years into this project,” she said. “It is so sad that she never got to hold the final copy of Angels With Blue Faces in her hand.
“I am just so proud of you now as I was of you every day or your life”.
Speaking in her foreword in the book Nichola added:
“Although my sister had little else in common with anyone in this story, she was passionate about exposing the truth – or at least as much of it that she could discover. She hoped that perhaps someone, somewhere – hopefully with some sort of power – would have to sit up, listen and do something upon reading the puzzle she was painstakingly piecing together so that their families could get real answers and in the hope that it would never happen again.
“Within this volume, you will read Lyra share her concerns about the personal safety of ‘young writers asking too many questions’. Although Lyra claims she was ‘being paranoid’ at the time of writing, it won’t fail to raise eyebrows. You will also read how both Bradford and Campbell died from the very same injury as our beloved Lyra; it is truly surreal to read these connections.
“Our family are immensely proud of Lyra’s achievements. May you all get a better sense of our Lyra through reading her words within this publication. May you all discover that Lyra never sought fame or fortune, all she desired was the truth and to make a career out of what she was most passionate about: investigative journalism.”
In January 2018 Lyra struck a deal with indie publishers Excalibur Press to finally put her work into print. She then set about researching the book further and spent time editing and re-editing to her final draft.
Tina Calder, owner of Excalibur Press said: “Publishing Angels With Blue Faces has been an emotional time for the team at Excalibur Press but it has been an immense honour to be able to bring Lyra’s life’s work into the public eye.
“Just a short time before her death Lyra had approved her cover and sent the final changes for her book, she should have been holding it in her hand at the end of April.
“Lyra’s investigation into the death of Northern Ireland MP Robert Bradford was a passion project for her, for years it became her obsession as she followed lead after lead in the pursuit of the truth.
“We were absolutely delighted when Lyra agreed to entrust Excalibur Press with this book and were devastated to learn of her death just days before the book should have been going on pre-release and less than a month before she would have held it in her hand.
“Excalibur Press will be donating our commission to our not-for-profit entity The Merlin Project where we hope to run a series of events, workshops and potentially courses for young reporters wanting to learn some of the practical aspects of the industry.
“Taking inspiration from Lyra and her talent, we hope to teach young journalists the art of research as well as interview techniques and more.”
Angels With Blue Faces published by Excalibur Press is available now, priced £9.99, from excaliburpress.co.uk/lyra-mckee
Children Asked to Share Ideas for Lord Mayor’s Time Capsule
Schoolchildren from across Belfast are being invited to share their ideas on what should be included in a time capsule which will be sealed by the city’s Lord Mayor, to be opened in 100 years.
The project is part of Belfast City Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme and aims to provide a snapshot of life in 2021 for generations to come.
Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey has himself chosen a number of items to include in the time capsule, including a NI women’s football shirt and a special medallion to mark the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland.
“This year marks a hugely significant milestone in Northern Ireland’s history, marking 100 years since the first Northern Ireland Parliament was opened,” said Alderman McCoubrey.
“While this milestone will mean different things for different people, Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme aims to provide a space to reflect on key historical moments and events from 1912-1922 that shaped Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“And as we look ahead to the next 100 years and wonder what life might be like then, I thought creating a time capsule would be an interesting way of capturing a little piece of history and preserving it for generations to come, so that they might have an insight into life in the city in 2021
“I’m hoping that young people will provide some inspiration as to what should be included; all suggestions are welcome but we would like it to be something that is particularly relevant to 2021 and the times we are living through.”
As a huge supporter of the Northern Ireland football team, Alderman McCoubrey said including the women’s team’s football shirt was an easy decision.
“The achievements of the NI women’s football team in making history and reaching the Euros is something we can all be very proud of,” said Alderman McCoubrey.
“I hope that when this time capsule is opened in 2121 this achievement will be seen as having been something of a turning point for women in sport, and that it is seen to inspire more young women and girls to get involved in competitive sport.”
Belfast City Council was awarded funding from the Shared History Fund, which The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delivering on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office, to deliver a number of projects to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary year, including the Lord Mayor’s time capsule project.
Young people can send their suggestions to the Lord Mayor’s Office via email firstname.lastname@example.org or share their ideas on Council’s social media channels using the hashtag #BelfastTimeCapsule
The deadline for suggestions is 4pm on Wednesday 19 May. All suggestions received will be considered by the Lord Mayor for inclusion in the time capsule which will be stored at City Hall until it is opened in 2121.
Work Begins On New £12.6million East Belfast Primary School
Education Minister Peter Weir has cut the first sod on a new school build for Elmgrove Primary School in Belfast.
The £12.6million scheme will include the provision of a new 21 classroom primary school, a double unit nursery school and a nurture unit. There will also be pedestrian access onto the Connswater Community Greenway which will make it more accessible for children and parents to walk to and from school.
Speaking at the sod cutting ceremony the Minister said: “The start of the construction work marks the beginning of a new chapter for Elmgrove Primary School.
“I am confident that the £12.6million investment will help in the drive to improve education standards. I have no doubt this scheme will have a positive impact on staff, pupils, parents and the wider school community in the East Belfast area, as well as providing a boost to the local construction industry.”
Extensive Refurbishment and Alterations
Work on the school will involve extensive refurbishment and alterations to the existing Grade A listed building and the construction of three new wings to the rear. The retention of the listed building will ensure the structure preserves an historical architectural element to the school.
The Minister continued: “I would like to thank everyone involved in this project for their hard work and commitment in getting the scheme to this stage.
“I have no doubt that everyone in the school is looking forward to the next few years with a sense of excitement, to see the ongoing construction of the new school.
“I wish everyone well for the future and I look forward to returning, in the not too distant future, to see the new school building standing on this site.”
The new build will accommodate approximately 620 primary pupils and 52 nursery children.
The Integrated Design Team is Amey FMP. The main Contractor is Woodvale. They were appointed to carry out the main building works, which are due to complete in autumn 2023.