LONDON (AP) — Britain and Ireland are making a new push to restore Northern Ireland’s collapsed government, as politicians face mounting criticism after the killing of a journalist by a banned militant group.
The two governments were expected to make an announcement Friday about talks to revive the power-sharing administration, which has been suspended for more than two years because of a dispute between the main Protestant and Catholic parties.
Security officials warn that political drift in Northern Ireland, along with uncertainty around Brexit, could embolden people bent on violence.
Pressure on politicians has grown since the killing of journalist Lyra McKee, shot dead last week by a member of Irish nationalist militant group the New IRA during rioting in Londonderry, also known as Derry.
McKee’s death drew condemnation from across the political divide, with Northern Ireland political leaders and the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland attending her funeral in Belfast on Wednesday.
In his homily, Father Martin Magill praised the united response of politicians, but asked: “Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?” Mourners rose to give him a standing ovation.
Robin Swann, leader of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party, said Friday that Northern Ireland’s political vacuum “will be exploited and filled by the men and women of the shadows.”
“As political leaders we must recognize that and get back around the table,” he said.
Most of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups have disarmed since a 1998 peace accord ended three decades of sectarian conflict known as The Troubles. But a small number of dissidents refused to abandon violence, and have targeted police and prison officials in bombings and shootings.
The New IRA, the largest of the splinter groups, acknowledged responsibility for McKee’s death, saying she was shot accidentally “while standing beside enemy forces” — a reference to the police.
Police released video footage Friday of a stocky, masked man they say is suspected of shooting McKee and urged residents to help identify him.
“I believe he is the person who took the life of Lyra McKee,” Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said.
“People saw this young man and his associates. I think people in the community know who they are and I’m asking them today to come forward to help us.”