Journalists Killed  |  UK

Martin O'Hagan

Sunday World

September 28, 2001, in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, UK

O'Hagan, a 51-year-old investigative journalist with the Dublin newspaper Sunday World, was shot dead outside his home in the Northern Ireland town of Lurgan.

O'Hagan was shot several times from a passing car while walking home from a pub with his wife, who was not hurt in the attack. The vehicle used in the attack was found on fire not far from the crime scene. O'Hagan, who worked in the Belfast office of the Sunday World, was an Irish Catholic journalist who had become well known for his coverage of both Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups.

More than 20 years ago, before he became a journalist, O'Hagan was convicted of running guns for the Irish Republican Army and served five years in prison. But he later turned away from radical politics, studying sociology at the Open University and the University of Ulster and then entering journalism as a freelancer for local newspapers. His connections in both Catholic Republican and Protestant Loyalist circles, as well as in the British security forces, gave him unusual insight into the conflict but also made him a target for paramilitary reprisals.

In 1989, he was kidnapped and interrogated by the Irish Republican Army, which tried unsuccessfully to force him to divulge his sources, and in the early 1990s he was forced to flee to Dublin after receiving death threats from a top loyalist gunman. O'Hagan returned to Belfast in 1995 after most paramilitary groups had declared cease-fires.

While O'Hagan had received threats from Protestant militants in the past, it is not clear if he had been threatened prior to the shooting. The Red Hand Defenders, which police consider a cover name for Protestant militants from the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and the Ulster Defense Association, claimed responsibility for his murder.

Police initially identified the LVF as a primary suspect. Prior to his murder, O'Hagan had been working on several stories about the LVF, the BBC reported. Colleagues believe the LVF targeted O'Hagan for exposing the narcotics network they controlled, as well as assassinations and intimidation rackets they orchestrated. 

Medium: Print

Job: Print Reporter

Beats Covered: Corruption, Crime, War

Gender: Male

Local or Foreign: Foreign

Freelance: No

Type of Death: Murder

Suspected Source of Fire: Paramilitary Group

Impunity: Yes

Taken Captive: No

Tortured: No

Threatened: Yes


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