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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Murder condemned as 'despicable act'
Murder scene
Mr O'Hagan was shot as he walked home with his wife
The murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan, by dissident loyalist paramilitaries, has been condemned by political leaders and media colleagues in Northern Ireland.

Mr O'Hagan was shot in Lurgan, County Armagh on Friday as he walked home with his wife after a night out in a local pub.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force, have said they murdered the father of three, who was in his 50s.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid said he was "appalled by this barabaric killing".

"It shows contempt for human life, contempt for the freedom of the press and contempt for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"My heart goes out to the family of Mr O'Hagan and his colleagues at the Sunday World.

"I have spoken to the chief constable and I share his absolute determination to track down those responsible for this act of savagery."

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, described the killing as "senseless and brutal".

I am shocked and appalled by this cowardly act, which must be condemned by all right-thinking people

David Trimble UUP leader

Acting first minister and deputy first minister, Sir Reg Empey and Seamus Mallon described the killing as "an attack on democracy itself".

"Mr O'Hagan's murder must be condemned. Those who carried it out must be reviled."

The editor of the Sunday World, Colm McGinty, said Mr O'Hagan had died in search of the truth.

"Martin was fearless in carrying out his duties and never skirted from a challenge, despite the fact that he had been threatened before.

"He was shot in the back and died in search of the truth."

'Cowardly act'

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and Upper Bann MLA, David Trimble condemned the murder and offered his sympathies to the O'Hagan family.

"I am shocked and appalled by this cowardly act, which must be condemned by all right-thinking people."

Mr O'Hagan worked in the Belfast office of the Dublin-based Sunday World newspaper and had received a number of death threats throughout his career.

Wheatfield Gardens, scene of the shooting, with police tape
Mr O'Hagan died at the scene of the shooting

The chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party, John White, condemned the killing but said Mr O'Hagan had made enemies of many loyalists.

"Certainly I wouldn't have agreed with Martin's brand of journalism and he did cross many loyalists over the years, as did a number of Sunday World reporters," he said.

"But in this day and age, with the peace process at the stage it is and the difficulties going on, this certainly doesn't help and there can be no justification for it."

DUP councillor for Lurgan, Jonathan Bell, said there was "a palpable sense of shock" in the community.

"A free press and free speech are essesential features of any democratic society and we must at all costs safeguard it," he said.

Upper Bann SDLP assembly member Brid Rodgers said the community in Lurgan was in shock.

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