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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

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Belfast City

Children Asked to Share Ideas for Lord Mayor’s Time Capsule

Young people can send their suggestions to the Lord Mayor’s Office via email rsvp@belfastcity.gov.uk or share their ideas on Council’s social media channels using the hashtag #BelfastTimeCapsule

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.”

Making History

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 rsvp@belfastcity.gov.uk 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.

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Belfast City

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.

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