O’Hagan: shot in the back by paramilitaries
On the second anniversary of the murder of Northern Ireland journalist Martin O’Hagan, campaigners have renewed calls for his killers be brought to justice.
After two years of inquiries the police have yet to charge anyone with the murder of Sunday World reporter O’Hagan on 28 September, 2001. This is despite claims that the names of the eightman Loyalist Volunteer Force gang alleged to have carried out the killing are well known.
NUJ Belfast branch chairman Kevin Cooper said: “Within a week of the murder taking place police had the names of those who took part in the murder. It is two years on and still no charges have been brought.
“There still remain a number of areas that could be explored in relation to the investigation. It is now known that Martin O’Hagan did receive a threat before his murder – the person who communicated that threat could be prosecuted.”
The 51-year-old was shot dead after writing a number of stories exposing the activities of paramilitaries and drug gangs. He was the first journalist to be assasinated by paramilitaries in 30 years of The Troubles.
In 1984, the Sunday World’s then editor, Jim Campbell, was shot and wounded by a team from Loyalist terrorist group the Ulster Volunteer Force.
John Keane, a colleague of O’Hagan’s on the paper, told Press Gazette this week: “Of the eight people known to be involved in that gang, five are currently behind bars for other offences. It is believed that as many as three members of the gang have been Special Branch informers.
“The only way these people will be brought to justice is when they cross members of their own criminal gang and end up on a mortuary slab. I have no faith in the police to ever prosecute them.”
Pressure group Reporters Without Borders has urged Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy to renew the hunt for O’Hagan’s killers.
RWB secretary general Robert MÃ¨nard said in a letter to the minister: “The impunity enjoyed by Martin O’Hagan’s murderers is an insult to the memory of this journalist, who was killed for doing his job. The feeling of impunity that has taken hold poses a real danger for Irish journalists, who are the target of increasing threats and harassment from the paramilitary groups.”
He pointed out that since O’Hagan’s murder, journalists from the Sunday World and the Andersonstown News group have been subject to paramilitary death threats.
By Dominic Ponsford