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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
The killing of a journalist
Martin O'Hagan
Martin O'Hagan was shot while returning from the pub
By the BBC's Kevin Connolly

The Sunday World likes to portray itself as the biggest-selling newspaper in Ireland, a lively, hard-hitting weekly that first brought the language and style of the tabloid world to Dublin.

London-based papers like the Sun, the Star and the Mirror all produce Irish editions these days - but the Sunday World, with its wholly Irish identity, retains its distinctive feel.

It marries the style, tone and layout of the tabloids with the themes and agendas of hard-hitting investigative journalism.

Its targets are terrorism and organised crime.

If we keep on doing our job, hopefully there will be a better society at the end of it

Jim McDowell
Sunday World
Its critical tone is fearless and uncompromising.

The paper's Northern Editor, Jim McDowell, has said the murder of Martin O'Hagan will not change that.

He said simply: "As an editor of the Sunday World and as a journalist pure and simple, they will not stop us doing our job.

"And if we keep on doing our job, hopefully there will be a better society at the end of it."

Mr O'Hagan was keenly aware of the dangers of writing frankly about the dark underside to life in Northern Ireland.

The Sunday World's offices in Belfast were firebombed in 1999, and years before that Mr O'Hagan had to leave Northern Ireland after a series of death threats.

'King Rat'

They followed a series of articles about loyalist paramilitary Billy Wright, for whom Mr O'Hagan coined the title "King Rat".

The O'Hagans moved south of the border for a while until the immediate danger receded.

But although he was keenly aware of the dangers he faced, Mr O'Hagan's style and subject matter did not change.

His colleague Paul Williams, the Sunday World's crime correspondent, said: "He was fearless, relentless.

He enjoyed exposing terrorism

Sunday World Crime Correspondent, Paul Williams

"He would not stand back from what he did.

"He enjoyed exposing terrorism."

Mr O'Hagan is the first journalist to be murdered in the line of work in the history of Northern Ireland's Troubles - a sobering fact that has prompted some politicians to see it as an assault on democracy and freedom of speech.

The killing has disturbing parallels with the murder of Veronica Guerin in Dublin five years ago.

She was shot dead for probing the affairs of a powerful network of gangsters and drug dealers and refusing to back down or back off when they threatened her.

Mr O'Hagan also set about his work in the full knowledge that it was dangerous to provoke men of violence by probing their affairs.

He worked for a newspaper that sees itself as fearless and relentless and he had the courage to embody those characteristics himself.

See also:

29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Loyalists say they killed journalist
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Murder condemned as 'despicable act'
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