End impunity for the killing of Martin O'Hagan

  • 28 Sep 2021

For 20 years the NUJ has campaigned for justice.

The NUJ Belfast and district branch organised a vigil today to remember Martin O'Hagan, a former union rep, member and Sunday World journalist who was shot dead by the Loyalist Volunteer Force in September 2001.

No one has ever been convicted of Martin's murder.

© Kevin Cooper

The vigil was held outside the Police Ombundman's office in Belfast and marked the 20 year anniversary of Martin's death. The union continues to call on the authorities to bring the killers to justice.

Justice for Martin O'Hagan 2021

© Kevin Cooper

A new NUJ banner was unveiled during the vigil and features a photograph of Martin with the words "Justice for Martin O'Hagan".

A similar event also took place in Derry/Londonderry today in the Guildhall Square. The vigil was supported by Unison, Derry Trades Union Council and Omagh Trades Union Council.

Sara Canning, partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, addressed an NUJ vigil to say that freedom of the press was a neccessity for a fair society. She added: 

“Northern Ireland is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a journalist... Journalists are truth seekers, light bringers who shine torches into our most hidden and awful corners, we need an impartial and uncompromised press.

"Martin O’Hagan was the epitome of this, a man who turned his life around and sought to shed light on all of the worst parts of this society, to seek justice and to put in the hard work.

"As someone who has loved and shared a life with an investigative journalist I know the fear of knowing your partner is meeting some shady figure on a mission to uncover truth. Twenty years is too long to wait for justice. Martin’s murderers are known. Why are they allowed to walk the streets?"

Robin Wilson, chair of the Belfast and district NUJ branch told UTV:

"The NUJ urges the Police Ombudsman’s Office to keep the pressure on to stem the investigative inertia from which this murder case has suffered. The public needs to be confident that the rule of law is being upheld and that justice is being done."

Robin also shared his fond memories of Martin, his former colleague:

"Martin O’Hagan was deputy editor of Fortnight magazine, then the leading publication in the world addressing the Northern Ireland conflict, when I became editor in 1986. He went on of course to work for the Sunday World. Martin had a great sense of humour and would easily break into laughter. But he was also a very considered and caring person. We miss him as a human being as well as a professional journalist."

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International attended the vigil and has supported the NUJ's call for a fresh investigation into the killing. He said:

"Twenty years on, Amnesty International remains deeply concerned at the failure to hold accountable those responsible for the murder of Martin O'Hagan."

"We want a fresh investigation which can deliver justice for Martin O'Hagan and send a clear message that Northern Ireland is not a safe place for those who threaten and kill journalists."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet spoke at the Belfast branch event held last night and has said:

"The failure of the authorities to properly investigate the brutal murder of Martin O’Hagan is a stain on the history of policing in Northern Ireland. The passage of time does not obliterate the need for an independent investigation drawn from outside the UK to investigate the murder and the subsequent police failings."

Sé​​amus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Martin O’Hagan and his many relatives, friends and colleagues for whom this anniversary brings back painful memories.

"We lost not just a fearless journalist but a dedicated husband, father, brother, a trade union activist, a man of courage and integrity.

"As journalism comes under renewed attack we need a genuinely independent investigation and the NUJ will continue our campaign."

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