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Belfast City

Lyra McKee’s Own Words: My Book, Angels With Blue Faces

On Friday the book Angels With Blue Faces by murdered journalist Lyra McKee was published posthumously by Excalibur Press on behalf of her family.

Before her murder she was preparing for the book launch which should have happened just a matter of weeks later.
Here is what she had to say about the book herself:

Comments Lyra sent to her editor Janine Cobain on March 6, 2019: “Given that this is a tale of non-fiction, it’s probably appropriate that it began with a question rather than an idea. The question that led to Angels With Blue Faces came out of – what I thought was – a completely unrelated conversation about a children’s home.

“Angels With Blue Faces was born out of what was essentially an urban myth, this suspicion by a section of one community who believed that a politician had been asking questions about something shady before he was murdered. It intrigued me so much – I wondered, “Why does this rumour exist? Where does it come from? Is there a grain of truth in it?” And I essentially fell down a rabbit hole with those questions, trying to answer them. 

“I started working on this book when I was 22 which is a good and a bad age to take anything big on. It’s good because you’re too young to realise when you’re in over your head but you give it a go anyways and it’s bad because you don’t realise you’re in over your head! And you underestimate just how hard everything is, too. Over time, I learned that not every mystery can be solved and there’s not always a smoking gun, especially after decades have passed – but it’s still worth seeing what parts of the story you can salvage. 

“The one thing I learned from this book is that The Troubles are often portrayed as a black-and-white narrative but, really, it’s so much more complicated than “X side fought Y side”. It can’t be reduced to a formula. War is messy and complicated and in the aftermath, where people like me try to make sense of it all, the answers are hard to find because they’ve become lost in the fog of conflict. I hope, if anything, readers come away with an appreciation for just how messy this conflict was.

Lyra McKee Family Collects . Provided in good faith by the family of Lyra McKee Distributed by Excalibur Press Tina Calder, tina@excaliburpress.co.uk, 07982628911

“I spent so many years writing and researching this and then trying to get it published. It’s a relief to see it in the world! I hope, more than anything, that it adds to our understanding of this war that has shaped us all, even those of us born as it was coming to an end.”

Excerpt from the book: “I began researching Angels with Blue Faces – the book you hold in your hands (or on your phone, tablet, or Kindle) – 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.

Robert Bradford MP at the Europa Hotel. Pacemaker Press Intl. Sept. 1981 . Licensed for use by Excalibur Press from Pacemaker in the promotion of Lyra McKee’s book Angels With Blue Faces. Any other uses will be charged as standard by Pacemaker. 993/81/BW

“It’s taken a long time to get this book into print. 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.”
Book Dust Jacket – written by Lyra
In November 1981 gunmen stormed a community centre in South Belfast, murdering Ken Campbell, the centre’s caretaker, and Reverend Robert Bradford, a serving Member of Parliament. 

In the hours after the killings the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the attack and while there were many arrests, no one was prosecuted for either murder.

While killings during The Troubles in Northern Ireland were commonplace, investigations in to this attack have thrown up more questions than answers.

Bradford was a steady constituency worker, not a particularly vocal political operative, but in the days leading up to his execution had taken out additional life insurance and left instructions about what should happen in the event of his death.

What had he stumbled into that made him fear for his life? 

Had Bradford been asking too many questions about instances of abuse by housefathers against young boys in their care at Kincora House, and the links to a pedophile ring featuring prominent members of society?

The security forces had been tipped off about a planned attack on the day of Bradford’s death, yet an operation which would have prevented his murder was delayed, and the life of the police officer guarding Bradford was spared. Why weren’t these deaths prevented? 

The Bradford case appears to be all smoke with no guns in sight, but these investigations asks how the murder of an MP during The Troubles goes unsolved for almost 40 years.
Angels With Blue Faces is available to buy from https://excaliburpress.co.uk/product/angels-with-blue-faces-by-lyra-mckee

Belfast City

Cathedral Quarter BID Celebrates Success Of Street Beat Police Presence In Area

An initiative that saw additional dedicated police officers patrolling Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has been welcomed as a proven success story by Destination CQ’s manager Damien Corr.

The Ballot for the continuation of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) is currently open until September 22. In an independent survey carried out in advance of the ballot, the Street Beat (#streetbeat) programme was seen as one of the key projects that adds value for businesses and organisations in the area, over 90% of respondents prioritised it for inclusion in the Business Plan for the next 5 years.

The StreetBeat officers are paid for by the BID and are additional to the normal policing provided by PSNI. The initiative was a direct response to local business owners’ concerns regarding antisocial activity within the areas. 

BID manager Damien Corr said: “As the businesses are paying for the service, it was essential that they felt in ‘control’, accordingly the officers have a designated phone which our Cathedral Quarter businesses can call direct 07787432635. This ability to bypass the general PSNI Switchboard is key to a more effective localised response.”

The officers patrol the area on foot and in their distinctive CQ street beat branded vehicle, dealing with anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. They also visit premises offering practical security and personnel safety advice and equipment.

StreetBeat PSNI officer Michael Gillies added: “Being given the time and support both by the BID and PSNI management, I have been allowed to focus my work specifically within the Cathedral Quarter and its needs. 

“This has helped to strengthen relationships already made with businesses and also to forge new ones. It’s back to basics Neighbourhood policing, only this time the neighbourhood is my local business community”.

However, the future of the scheme in the Cathedral Quarter relies on a ‘yes’ vote for a new five-year term for the Business Improvement District organisation Destination CQ.

With ballot papers already issued and voting by post closing on September 22, Mr Corr is keen to remind voters of what could be lost without their votes.

“The BID levy payers have told us that they really appreciate the work done by our Street Beat officers who, between them, have provided 2080 extra policing hours targeted patrolling,” he said. 

“They were particularly effective over lockdown when lots of properties were left unattended. Our officers continued to patrol, checking on closed business premises and providing assurance and practical assistance to those who continued to work.

“It is a simple reality, that unless we get a yes vote in the ballot, aloof this additional targeted policing will be lost to Cathedral Quarter.”

Sorcha Woolsy, Operations Director of Beannchor with a number of businesses in the BID area said the BID has carried out a number of projects that have impacted the Beannchor suite of businesses.

“The one that really stands out to me is the provision of the City Centre Beat Officers,” she added.

“It’s a really good example of an initiative that a BID can provide that an individual business could not on their own. 

“For me, it is imperative to vote yes on the re-ballot of the BID. The collective energy and brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own.”

For more information on the work of Destination CQ and Street Beat go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.

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Belfast City

CQ BID Celebrates Five Years Of Being Voice For All In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District, Destination CQ, has for five years been the collective voice for every business in the area, lobbying and consulting with local and regional government and government agencies.

Destination CQ Manager, Damien Corr said the ability to go to these organisations and speak for everyone in the Cathedral Quarter, Smithfield and Union, is one that can’t go unnoticed.

“We are involved in most stakeholder groups in the city and that’s something that our levy payers don’t see a lot of,” he explained. 

“It takes up a lot of our time but it’s very worthwhile.

“The ability to lobby for individual businesses, or for the entire area, direct to departments is important, and we work away on issues until we are successful or reach an acceptable compromise.”

The pressures of the pandemic, shop closures and the complete halt to tourism have affected the economy as a whole but it also had a significant effect on the Cathedral Quarter. This inner-city neighbourhood, characterised by arts, culture, restaurants, entertainment and independent shops relies on tourists and visitors to survive.  

Over the past five years, Destination CQ has represented business interests at City Reopening Stakeholder Group, City Centre Anti-Social Behaviour Action Group and the Small Business Forum.

At present there is a ballot to continue the BID’s work for a further five years and voting Yes to the BID means local businesses can present a unified front and have a collective voice when engaging with the various stakeholders, either local government or assembly level.

When asked about the importance of banding together to present a collective voice, Sorcha Wolsey, Operations Director for the Beannchor Group and Destination CQ BID Board member said it was important that businesses come together.

“The collective energy, brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own,” she said.

The business improvement district has been actively championing the area, partnering with promotional activities such as the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme to help restaurants in the area recover from the effects of the pandemic. 

There have been numerous BID led initiatives that greatly benefited businesses in the neighbourhood. Culture Night and Restaurant Week are just some examples of the projects that make CQ a vibrant place to do business. 

Board member and Director of Quigg Golden, Gavin Hendrie said Cathedral Quarter needed a body to explain the issues and promote the area.

“We need a champion for the area,” he explained. “We need the BID to help advertise the CQ as a place to come, to maintain the sense of vibrancy that we’ve known in the past and perhaps lost in the last 18 months.”

Supporting local businesses remains one of the three pillars the Business Improvement District plans to focus on in term two. Collective advocacy is still a priority with creating a strong alliance among stakeholders and ensuring BID members’ voice is heard in key city-wide discussions.

Les Hume, Vice-Chair of CQ BID explained why it is crucial to be represented as a collective:

“By being part of a collective we can present a reasoned, well thought through debate, we can actually bring our concerns and our troubles to the people who make the key decisions,” he said. 

“I think that in the next five years we’re going to have even greater challenges as we try to build Belfast back better.

“To vote yes for this BID process means that your voice can be heard, along with mine hopefully. Together we’ll make Belfast better.

“Individually we will struggle. That’s what I think is good about a Business Improvement District, so please do consider voting yes.”

For more information on how the work of Destination CQ BID can benefit your business go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.

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