Seven journalists under threat from paramilitaries

O’Hagan: dedicated trade unionist

Seven journalists are currently under threat from paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, the NUJ revealed in its recent meeting with the province’s security minister, Jane Kennedy.

"These are known threats," Kevin Cooper, chair of the NUJ’s Belfast and District branch said. "There are some other journalists in newspapers who may be reluctant to report such threats or do not believe they are genuine."

The knowledge that other journalists are in danger comes as a plaque is to be unveiled in memory of murdered Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan before this year’s Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) May Day parade in Belfast on Saturday.

The NUJ contingent will also be given a prominent place in the parade to demonstrate the trade union movement’s opposition to the growing threats against workers.

O’Hagan was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries as he returned to his home in Lurgan with his wife in September 2001. He was secretary of the NUJ’s Belfast and District branch and had carried the NUJ banner in the last two May Day parades.

At the ICTU (Northern Ireland Committee) biennial conference in Enniskillen last week, delegates unanimously called for an end to intimidation against workers, particularly in the public sector.

Its motion read: "This conference condemns the murders of postal worker Danny McColgan and journalist Martin O’Hagan and all other workers killed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles as attacks on a person’s fundamental right to work; further condemns threats of violence against any worker because of the work they do; notes that a number of journalists continue to do their work under the threat of attack from paramilitaries; and calls on the paramilitaries to lift those threats and to end the use of such threats against workers in recognition of the right of all people to earn a living to provide for themselves and their families."

Cooper said: "Previous speakers at the conference referred to the growing level of sectarianism on the streets in Northern Ireland. The NUJ echoes the calls of other trade unions that paramilitaries must not be allowed to dictate the agenda."

In his speech on the motion, NUJ delegate and chair of the Northern Ireland Broadcasting branch, Michael Fisher, said "Martin O’Hagan was firstly a loving father, secondly an outstanding investigative reporter, who remained totally committed to seeking the truth and exposing wrong-doing, thirdly a fearless journalist and finally a dedicated trade unionist.

"I was on duty the night he was shot dead and the next morning I had to report on the murder. I would not want to have the same task again, reporting the killing of a journalist colleague."

O’Hagan was the first Northern Ireland journalist to be killed deliberately because of his work.

The union’s Irish executive council has commissioned the plaque, which will be unveiled by NUJ president John Barsby at the entrance to Belfast’s Transport House before the rally.

 

by Jean Morgan

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