Murder case witness 'not fit' to be in union

NUJ: “protect confidential sources”

The NUJ has ruled that a journalist who betrayed a confidence and helped secure the conviction of a Loyalist paramilitary for murder is “not a fit and proper person for membership of the union”.

Nick Martin-Clarke gave evidence last February at the trial of Loyalist Volunteer Force member Clifford McKeown that the accused had confessed to him about murdering Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick.

Martin-Clarke claimed that when he asked McKeown who killed McGoldrick, he replied: “You’re looking at him.”

An article revealing this fact appeared in The Sunday Times in December 1999. Subsequently, it was Martin-Clarke’s decision to break confidentiality and give evidence that led to the conviction of McKeown for murder earlier this year. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

The McKeown case caused much disquiet among journalists operating in Northern Ireland as it was felt it could compromise their own dealings with paramilitaries and others in the security service arena.

Martin-Clarke took out temporary NUJ membership before his his article about McKeown was published in December 1999. At the time, he asked the NUJ ethics committee for advice regarding publication. Temporary membership of the NUJ London Freelance branch was then renewed for another year prior to lapsing. Martin-Clarke has not been a member of the union since.

He has expressed some surprise that the NUJ did not take any action against him at the time that the article was originally published.

Martin-Clarke told Press Gazette: “I feel I did the right thing and I have no regrets. I understand the concerns of journalists, but I don’t think it is a black and white matter. For me the public appreciation expressed by Sadie McGoldrick [the widow of the murdered man] matters more than any kneejerk reaction from the NUJ.”

NUJ spokesman Tim Gopsill said: “He broke union rules – ie the Code of Conduct clause 7 – in giving evidence. The Code of Conduct is quite clear – you shall protect confidential sources – and he did not.

“There is good reason for that rule – in Northern Ireland more than anywhere. Journalists there would be in great danger if it was thought they would talk to police or security services. People get killed there.

“Brave journalists like Ed Moloney, Alex Thompson, Lena Ferguson, have risked jail rather than betray their sources. The whole journalist community could be at risk if paramilitary gangsters thought they might give evidence against them.”

Martin-Clarke is now under the witness protection scheme.

By Paul Donovan

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