Not forgetting Martin...

September 28 was the second anniversary of the murder of Belfast Branch secretary Martin O'Hagan, the first journalist to be killed in Northern Ireland because of his work. The NUJ continues to press the Police Service, who say they still lack forensic evidence to charge the widely-alleged killers.

From Belfast Branch newsletter

Second Anniversary Sees No Progress

This month will be the second anniversary of the murder of branch secretary Martin O'Hagan, shot dead by elements of the Lurgan LVF, only yards from his home on 28 September 2001, after a night out with wife Marie. This anniversary comes around without any progress into his murder being made by police, writes Mick Brown.

Senior police recently reassured some of Marty's former colleagues that the investigation into his murder remains "live", with all the suspects having been interviewed. Indeed, the identities of his killers are well-known by police and media.

However, Chief Constable Hugh Orde was recently quoted as saying that although the quality of the investigation was undeniable, police have failed to secure the necessary forensic evidence to make progress in the case.

At a recent meeting with the Chief Constable an NUJ delegation was told by him that no substantial progress had been made. This is despite a number of potentially controversial claims about security force agents having been part of the murder gang. However, at least one of those involved is now on remand facing other serious charges.

One of those at the recent meeting was Kevin Cooper, Chair, NI Committee of the IEC. He said: "The Chief Constable was reminded of international obligations to protect press freedom and therefore journalists. If the killers are not brought to justice other journalists will continue to feel under pressure and this leads to self-censorship."

NUJ meets Chief Constable

A delegation from the NUJ comprising Kevin Cooper, Chair of the NI Committee of the IEC, Gerry Carson, NEC member, and branch Chair, along with Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, attended the recent meeting in Belfast with the Chief Constable of the PSNI Hugh Orde and Director of Media and Public Relations Austin Hunter writes Mick Brown.

Three key items were discussed:

  • the investigation into the murder of Martin O'Hagan;
  • the current levels and numbers of threats to journalists and news groups, which some reliably estimate are sitting at their highest-ever levels; and
  • police raids and the seizure of equipment and documents from journalists' homes.

Seamus Dooley acknowledged later that "It was a broad ranging discussion, much of it off the record." But he did confirm that Mr Orde had told the delegation there been no "substantial progress" in catching Marty's killers, and that last year's reconstruction had failed to provoke fresh leads.

On the issue of the threats Kevin Cooper said: "It was a good, open and frank meeting. The need for more information on individual threats, the level and nature of threats along with the issue of journalists getting access to the Key Personnel Protection Scheme were addressed." The Chief Constable suggested a follow-up meeting with his security staff and the NUJ to discuss these issues in detail.

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