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Northern Ireland Struggles to Distance Itself From Terrorism Even As a Belfast Reporter Isgunned Down By Paramilitary Loyalists

October 02, 2001


As the world focuses on global terror attacks, Northern Irish leaders are struggling to distance the region fromterror movements. During a Sinn Fein conference this weekend in Dublin, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, thepolitical party allied with the Irish Republican Army, made a point of calling terrorism "ethically indefensible".And yesterday, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble called on the government to match its freezing of alleged Talibanassets in the UK with a crackdown on the profits made by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

Trimble’s statements follow the murder last Friday of Northern Ireland investigative journalist Martin O’Hagan, whoworked in the Belfast office of the Dublin-based Sunday World paper and covered paramilitary and drug-relatedstories. O’Hagan was shot from a passing car as he walked home with his wife from a pub in County Armagh, 25 milesfrom Belfast. His wife was not injured. Yesterday, Protestant extremists claimed responsibility for the killing.Martin O’Hagan was the first reporter killed in more than thirty years of strife in Northern Ireland.

In a statement to the BBC in Belfast, a pro-British cover group called the Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibilityfor the killing, saying it had shot O’Hagan for "crimes against the loyalist people." Authorities say the UlsterDefense Organization have used the Red Hand Defenders as a cover name when admitting to recent bomb attack attacks,such as the sectarian murders of two teenagers in July.

O’Hagan’s work often exposed the criminal underbelly of paramilitary organizations. He had infuriated paramilitarybosses and received death threats from the Loyalist Volunteer Force in the past. Recently O’Hagan had been working ona number of stories involving LVF members.


  • Jack Holland, author of several books on the Northern Ireland conflict including ??Hope Against History:The Course of Conflict in Northern Ireland.
  • John McDonagh, host of Radio Free Eireann on Pacifica station WBAI.