"THEY took away an amazing person. I’ve lost the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. Some idiot with a gun took that away.”

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 news on Wednesday, Sara Canning, the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, spoke of her heartbreak and anger over the death of the woman she loved.

Canning was with Lyra McKee that fateful night in April when she was gunned down by dissident republicans on the Creggan Estate in Derry.

The couple had only been on the scene of the riots for eight minutes before McKee was fatally shot. The reverberations of the senseless killing are still being felt three weeks on, and Lyra’s family and partner are looking to political leaders to fulfil the promises they made in the immediate aftermath of her death.

The murder of the award-winning journalist was an act of cowardice that jarred against the searing bravery of McKee’s writing and investigations. During the 10-minute interview it quickly became clear that Canning is also a woman of extraordinary bravery and conviction. She spoke of the “mindless thugs” who shot into a crowd of people that night and said their recruitment tactics were akin to “grooming”.

“They take young people who are disenfranchised and living in poverty and they tell them that the way forward is a gun in their hand.”

Remarkably, while still in those early days of disorientating grief as she attended her partner’s funeral, Canning took the opportunity to speak directly to the political leaders assembled about their collective shortcomings.

While accepting their condolences graciously, Canning said she realised that she may never get the chance again to speak truth to power in such a direct way. “Nobody is going to tell me what I can and can’t say at this point because I’ve literally just lost the love of my life … and the activity of these people has in no small part led to the rise in these groups.”

She told Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley she was doing a “terrible job” and that she was astonished by her lack of knowledge of Northern Ireland, asking her to “go and educate yourself”.

She pleaded with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to do all he could to help restore power-sharing at Stormont.

“You need to facilitate these people sitting down at a table.

You are a world leader and I’m putting my trust in you.”

And for the Prime Minister Theresa May, Canning had a simple message. She told her she had been “massively derelict in her duties to Northern Ireland” while adding that successive governments had also been guilty of this, including previous Labour governments.

As Sara Canning spoke of McKee’s intricate plans to propose to her in New York in May – plans that would now never be realised – you wonder what it will take for political leaders to show even a modicum of the courage of Lyra McKee and Sara Canning.

The National: A mural of Lyra McKee in Belfast city centreA mural of Lyra McKee in Belfast city centre

There have been warm words about the death of Lyra McKee not being in vain. It has been suggested that the premature loss of such an extraordinary talent could be what finally helps break the political impasse in Northern Ireland, as well as focusing the minds of UK politicians to the reckless disregard they have shown towards the threat of a hard border as a result of Brexit.

This week, talks began again to attempt to restore power-sharing after two years without an assembly and Canning urged leaders to work together to achieve compromise.

“We need to look beyond red lines. We’ve been left adrift”.

Since Lyra’s death Sara has faced intimidation tactics from dissidents who want to stop her speaking up against the people who are trying to drag communities back to the bombs and bullets of the past.

She refuses to be cowed.

“We’re strong women and we’re not afraid anymore … Lyra’s legacy should be that we don’t have to live in fear.”

Sometimes it is those conversations – freed from social niceties and deferential treatment of those in high-office, through the force of grief and raw emotion – that can have the most impact.

Too often, political leaders forget that compromise isn’t a dirty word. As they dig their heels in and become even more entrenched in their positions, the public can only watch and wait – and hope they come to their senses.

Perhaps the reason why compromise is sometimes difficult is because it requires no small amount of courage. The courage to admit that you don’t have all the answers and to show a willingness to try and change your approach.

Those in politics would do well to watch that extraordinary interview with Sara Canning – and try to show some of her courage in the months ahead.