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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
'Lack of analysis' after murder
Murder scene
Martin O'Hagan was shot dead near his Lurgan home
Journalists who knew Northern Ireland reporter Martin O'Hagan have said they are dismayed his murder by loyalists has not received more scrutiny.

Father Brian D'Arcy, a family friend, and Susan McKay, a journalist on the Dublin based Sunday Tribune, said they were disappointed by the coverage following Mr O'Hagan's murder.

They were speaking on the BBC's Sunday Sequence programme, just over a week after the 51-year-old journalist was gunned down near his home in Lurgan, County Armagh.

Mr D'Arcy, who writes for the northern edition of the Dublin-based Sunday World newspaper where Mr O'Hagan worked, said that while the killing was foremost a tragedy for Martin's wife and three daughters, he had thought the first paramilitary murder of a journalist in Northern Ireland would have generated more analysis.


He said: "He was the first journalist to be killed in action here in Northern Ireland. Others have been threatened, and Martin was threatened previously, but this was the crossing of a terrible Rubicon.

Martin O'Hagan
Martin O'Hagan: Investigative journalist
"It was an enormous shock that a journalist should be killed because he was a journalist.

"The reason given for his murder was that he had disturbed too many hornets nests along the way and that he was obviously getting too near the truth.

"So I am slightly disappointed that there has not been more analysis of why it happened."

'Irish coverage'

Mr D'Arcy said he felt that Mr O'Hagan's murder was particularly sidelined by some of the Irish newspapers.

"The northern issue is never as important as any other issue. If that had happened to a journalist in the south, it would have got a great deal more coverage in the south.

Perhaps, maybe it also says a tabloid journalist is less important than a broadsheet journalist

Brian D'Arcy
"There were incidents of broadsheets which put the story on the front page of their northern edition last weekend, but put it deep inside the paper in their southern edition. That must have been a deliberate editorial decision.

"This seemed to say that there are some lives which are more or less important than others.

"Perhaps, maybe it also says a tabloid journalist is less important than a broadsheet journalist.

"If that is so, we have sunk to even greater depths, because surely the story is the important thing, not the person who is writing the story."

He added: "The person writing the story is only important in that they must get their facts right and relentlessly pursue the truth.

"Whether that is a high-profile person or an ordinary work-a-day journalist shouldn't matter."

Graveside appeal

Mr D'Arcy added that he had made a graveside appeal at Martin O'Hagan's funeral to other journalists to take up his work.

Mr O'Hagan had built a reputation covering paramilitary and drugs-related stories.

He had recently been working on a number of stories involving Loyalist Volunteer Force members.

RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said that police inquiries are concentrating on the LVF.

It was given less importance, perhaps, than the murder of Veronica Guerin

Susan McKay
"Whatever sort of truth and criminal activity he was uncovering, it is not just the duty of journalists, but of all society to unravel and root this out," Mr D'Arcy said.

Sunday Tribune journalist Susan McKay said the murder came as "a terrible shock to all of us ordinary journalists because we all go about our work with a certain sense that we are carrying out a public service and will be left alone".

She added: "Martin O'Hagan took chances and sat down with dangerous people in areas where he was not safe to get his stories. There is a kind of heroism in that and there was heroism in Martin O'Hagan.

"I agree with Brian D'Arcy that there is something disturbing about the lack of prominence that has been given to this terrible murder, particularly in the papers in the Republic.

"There was a sense of: it is in the north where anything goes. It was given less importance, perhaps, than the murder of Veronica Guerin."

Father Brian D'Arcy:
"I think there were a number of reasons why Martin's murder did not receive more coverage in the south"
See also:

29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid vows to catch journalist's killers
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Murder condemned as 'despicable act'
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
The killing of a journalist
12 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
LVF linked to fatal shooting
01 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Thousands attend journalist's funeral
06 Dec 00 | Europe
Accused 'threatened' reporter
15 Mar 01 | Europe
Death of an Irish heroine
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