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September 24, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:37am

NUJ calls for international panel of experts to probe Martin O’Hagan murder 20 years on

By Freddy Mayhew

The National Union of Journalists has called for a panel of international experts to be convened to investigate the unsolved murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan 20 years on.

O’Hagan (pictured) was shot dead as he walked home from an evening out with his wife in Lurgan, Co Armagh, on 28 September 2001.

He was the first journalist killed by paramilitaries since the outbreak of The Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1969 and was murdered after exposing the actions of Loyalist gangsters.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the failure to secure a conviction in the years after 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,” she said.

The NUJ is writing to the UK Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach seeking their support for a comprehensive investigation into O’Hagan’s murder 20 years ago.

“Martin was killed because he, as a dogged, determined investigative journalist, knew too much. The widespread belief that those who murdered Martin were informers, or linked to informers and thus protected, is sadly not a far-fetched theory,” said Stanistreet.

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“We have long called for an international investigation and we, as Martin’s union, renew that call on the 20th anniversary of his killing. The suspicion of collusion in a murder of this type undermines confidence and needs to be addressed.

“A free media is the cornerstone of democracy and it is simply not acceptable that Martin O’Hagan’s should be filed as ‘unsolved’.”

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, added: “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.”

O’Hagan was the only journalist to have been murdered on British soil for 18 years until Lyra McKee was fatally shot while covering riots in Belfast in 2019. A number of arrests have been made since McKee’s death, with three men charged over her murder.

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