Politicians and leaders have united in their condemnation of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead during rioting in Derry city last night.

President Michael D Higgins condemned the killing, saying: "Earlier this morning, I expressed shock on behalf of all of the Irish people and our outrage too at the taking of a life of a talented writer and journalist, a campaigner for rights, in the course of her professional work".

Mr Higgins was in Belfast with his wife Sabina this afternoon where he signed a book of condolence in memory of Ms McKee.

He said that those responsible for her death "represent nobody on this island".

He said it was "an outrageous act" and he offered his condolences to Ms McKee’s family, her partner Sara and her colleagues.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also expressed his condolences to Ms McKee's family, her partner and her friends.

Speaking at Government Buildings this afternoon, Mr Varadkar said the activist and journalist "changed lives as she lived and will do so again in death".

He said there is no place or justification for political violence in Ireland or Northern Ireland today and described last night's actions as an act of fear, an act of hate and cowardice. 

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Mr Varadkar said those who carried it out "do not share the views of our nation nor of our Republic"; therefore, he said it was an attack on all people, their nations and freedoms. 

The Taoiseach expressed his solidarity with the people of Derry and he acknowledged the bravery and work of the PSNI and the emergency services. 

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said there is no justification for this tragic loss of live and "I call on those intent on violence and disturbances to stop.

"As we mark the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, we are reminded that the vast majority of people of this island voted overwhelmingly for peace and reconciliation and an end to violence. There can be no going back to those awful days. "

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the killing of Ms McKee is "shocking and truly senseless", adding: "She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage."

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Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he is shocked at Ms McKee's death and "such a reckless regard for human life is horrendous".

He said journalists play a vital role in society, "exposing themselves to danger, so we can get a true insight into events".

Mr Flanagan paid tribute to the PSNI officers who "risk their lives to maintain public safety" and said they "deserve nothing less than wholehearted support from everyone in the community".

In a joint statement, the five party leaders in Northern Ireland condemned the murder of Ms McKee "in the strongest terms possible".

Arlene Foster of the DUP, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, the UUP's Robin Swan and Alliance leader Naomi Long, as well as the Green Party's Clare Bailey, said they are "united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime".

Calling for calm heads, the party leaders said: "Lyra's murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.  

"It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere".  

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she is deeply shocked and saddened and her thoughts and condolences are with Ms McKee's family.

"Those responsible for last night's violence have nothing to offer anyone in Northern Ireland.

"Their intolerable actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people who want to build a peaceful and more prosperous future for everyone in Northern Ireland."

Mayor of Derry, Councillor John Boyle, told a press conference it is "an extremely sad day for the citizens of this city".

He said: "The citizens of Derry, or Londonderry, it doesn't matter what you call this city, everyone is united with one voice today to speak out in the first instance, and to offer our condolences, especially to Lyra McKee's family in Belfast, for the tragedy that occurred here in our city last night.

"You will see behind me many of our civic and political leaders. They have come here to join with one voice to say that these events did not happen in the name of the people of this city." 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald condemned those responsible for Ms McKee's death and said "her contribution to society stands in marked contrast to those who brutally took her life".

She add: "These so-called dissident groups who took her life offer nothing only hardship and suffering. 

"As a society and a nation we are looking to a peaceful future. A future that has no place for violence.

"They do not represent the community, the people of Derry or wider opinion". 

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "Our hearts are very heavy and I want to say to Lyra's partner and her family that we stand with them...it's absolutely heartbreaking.

"Of course violence, criminality, terrorism was always wrong and is still wrong today in 2019, we condemn it wholeheartedly...I commend the officers last night who stood between the community and those who sought to do the community harm."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said news of the death was "devastating".

He tweeted: "A precious life lost, we can't go back to this nor can we allow others to drag us back."

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Derry will not be dragged back into the past.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Katie Hannon, he said: "We're not about to be dragged back by these people who are morally bankrupt, politically bankrupt. The people who are at fault here are the people who have taken the gun on to the street and shot a wonderful young woman.

"The people who are at fault here are the people who are trying to continue the violence that has been rejected. I want to keep the focus on the people who need to hear very clearly what the people of Derry are saying, and they're saying - very loudly - go away."

The SDLP's Mark Durkan spoke to reporters as he left the area. He said he was heartbroken and angry at the senseless loss of a young life.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also condemned the murder.

In a statement, he said: "Last night’s murder of a young journalist is appalling and deeply shocking. I extend my sympathies and those of the Fianna Fáil party to her family and friends.

"The shooting and associated riots are an attack on democracy.

"I utterly condemn the attack which initial reports suggest is the work of the so called New IRA. Those responsible must be brought to justice and I encourage anyone with information to bring it to the attention of the authorities.

"The PSNI have worked hard to engage with communities across the political divide over the last decade. To see them under attack from terrorist’s, hell bent on causing violent upheaval, is horrific. These people will not be allowed to undermine peace through such acts of violence".

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani called on the authorities to shed light on the death of Ms McKee.