O'Hagan murder inquiry 'very live' insists minister

Northern Ireland security minister Jane Kennedy has told an NUJ delegation that the investigation into the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan is "very live".

At a meeting at Stormont on Tuesday, Kennedy stressed: "I too want to see the people who carried this out brought swiftly to justice."

O’Hagan was the first journalist to be killed in 30 years of the Troubles. He was shot seven times by loyalist paramilitaries as he and his wife walked home from a pub last October.

The NUJ sought the meeting with the minister because of growing concern that little progress appeared to have been made in the six months since the killing and that threats against journalists had reportedly increased in recent months.

The delegation asked for information on the progress of the investigation and raised concerns that it might be hindered by wider security considerations, such as the protection of police sources.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear asked that more resources be devoted to the hunt for the killers.

"Clearly, we want more done," he told Press Gazette. "We want those people brought to justice and we have had assurances that’s what will happen."

The union also pressed for journalists at risk to be allowed access to the Key Person Protection Scheme, which has not so far been generally open to journalists. Only one or two at extreme risk have been able to avail themselves of it.

Dear said Kennedy had addressed some of the union’s concerns but the NUJ would be pressing for further action by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He welcomed a suggestion by the minister that the union should meet the Chief Constable.

"If action is not taken to ensure the security of individual journalists at risk and the wider general threat to journalists" he warned, "there is a real danger of self-censorship undermining the media’s critical role in keeping the public informed".

The KPPS provides not only personal protection but also money for increased security in people’s homes and places of work, Dear explained. The NUJ wants journalism to be included as a qualifying occupation for the scheme.

The delegation included NEC Northern Ireland member Brendan Wright, Belfast branch chair Kevin Cooper and Northern Ireland broadcasting branch chair Michael Fisher.

 

By Jean Morgan

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