Man Booker winner recalls journalist’s ‘open wee heart’

The latest winner of the Man Booker prize has paid a tearful tribute to a murdered Belfast journalist.

Milkman author Anna Burns was among hundreds who turned out at Belfast City Hall for a vigil to Lyra McKee and stood for a minute’s silence, which was followed with applause.

The books of condolence for Ms McKee was brought to the front steps of the building after the doors were officially closed for the night to allow those waiting in a long queue to sign it.

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee
People signed a book of condolence after the vigil (Liam McBurney/PA)

A smiling photograph of the 29-year-old journalist gazed across the rainbow flag-draped table which held two condolence books for well wishers to sign as well as a small posy of forget-me-nots.

Those attending were asked to talk to each other in memory of Ms McKee who they were reminded, loved conversations.

John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Coalition read out Ms McKee’s “Letter To My 14-year-old Self”, in which she had written evocatively about facing challenging times at school and the moment she came out as gay to her mother, and relief when her mother embraced her.

Next three friends of Ms McKee’s, who had been due to meet her for dinner that evening, shared their memories of their friend.

People holding candles at the vigil
Many were holding (Liam McBurney/PA)

Michele Devlin, Anna Burns and Alison Miller supported each other as they tearfully addressed the vigil.

Ms Burns described Ms McKee as a “dear, dear friend” that she had met through their mutual publisher Faber and Faber.

“It’s absolutely wonderful that you are all here for Lyra,” she told the crowd, many of whom held candles.

“She was just so helpful and generous, her wee heart was always open.”

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