Tory MP angers Brexiteers by linking murder of northern Irish journalist to Brexit

PUBLISHED: 19:00 20 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:00 20 April 2019

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

A Tory MP provoked an angry response from Brexiteers are referencing Brexit in a tweet about the murder of a young northern Irish journalist.

George Freeman, the Mid Norfolk MP tweeted that the news of Lyra McKee's murder was “heartbreaking” and “depressing”, before commenting: “We cannot allow a Brexit which undermines the peace in N Ireland.”

But his tweet sparked criticism from Brexiteers, who condemned the suggestion of a link between the rise in youth violence and the UK's EU exit.

Greg Peck, a local Conservative councillor, responded: “George, do you have any evidence that the violence was caused by Brexit? If not suggest you don't try and justify your pro Remain stance by irrelevant tweets.”

Former Conservative MP Stewart Jackson tweeted: “This sad event has nothing to do with Brexit @GeorgeFreemanMP and it's wrong to conflate these two separate issues.”

Brian Silvester said: “George, You need to delete this tweet. It is despicable to try and gain political advantage from the tragic murder of a young journalist.”

Another said: “Remoaners using Jo Cox and now IRA violence to justify Remain overturning democracy.”

Others tweeted in support of Freeman's message.

George Trefgarne wrote: “Goes to show many hard core Brexiteers are delusional about Ireland and would rather chuck Northern Ireland under a bus than compromise.”

David Brodie said: “Amazing and frightening responses to this sensible tweet.”

Freeman responded to criticisms by writing: “Extraordinary responses to my tweet earlier simply warning that the tragic murder of #LyraMcKee (which the police are treating as terrorism) is a reminder of the fragility of hard-won peace in N. Ireland & the need to ensure the Brexit backstop doesn't inflame it. That's all.”

Speaking to the Eastern Daily Press, he later said: “The violence in Londonderry, and the murder of young journalist Lyra McKee, is a reminder of the fragility of the hard won peace in N Ireland.

“The prime minister is right to insist that we need to be careful to ensure that we don't allow the creation of a hard border between Northern and Southern Ireland through Brexit to undermine that peace.”

Freeman was not the only politician to express concerns about the risks to peace in northern Ireland.

Former US president Bill Clinton, whose administration played an integral peace process role, tweeted: “Heartbroken by the murder of Lyra McKee and the violence in Derry.

“The challenges in Northern Ireland today are real - but we cannot let go of the last 21 years of hard-won peace and progress. This tragedy is a reminder of how much everyone has to lose if we do.”

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the murder was “a reminder of how fragile peace still is in Northern Ireland”, adding: “We must all work to preserve the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.”

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