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Martin O’Hagan

MUCH HAS BEEN written lately about Martin O’Hagan, the Sunday World journalist who was murdered on September 28th, apparently by LVF assassins. Although many journalists have received threats from various organisations during the Troubles, this is the only time that one has been killed. Jim Campbell, another Sunday World journalist, was seriously wounded by the UVF in 1984.

In death, of course, Mr O’Hagan has become a posthumous hero – “a journalist killed for seeking the truth” in the same mould as Veronica Guerin, a Dublin crime reporter who was murdered by a vicious criminal gang she crossed.  A plaque to his memory was unveiled at a ceremony in Transport House, Belfast on the morning of the annual Trade Union May Day celebration.  This notion must be challenged. There was one important difference between the two reporters; Martin O’Hagan had his own political agenda. He had been an activist in the old Official IRA and he served five years of a seven-year sentence for arms offences in the mid-seventies. When he left prison he chose to take up the pen rather that the gun to further his political aims. Much of his reportage was not valiant seeking after truth but malicious mischief making and shit stirring. He even set up individuals for attack and worse by their political opponents. We did not like Martin O’Hagan and we make no apology for saying this. He reminded me of the squalid muckraking character played by Danny DeVito in the modern Hollywood classic LA Confidential.

During 1988 and 1989, a series of letters were published in the Sunday World under the bye-line, DK, North Belfast. They argued for Ulster independence from a sectarian Ultra-Protestant perspective that has no relation to my own views. O’Hagan decided that I had written them and published them under my initials. He also wrote deliberately misleading articles attributing opinions to me that I did not hold, but that did give me trouble in my neighbourhood. I was frequently described as a ‘leading loyalist’ – a term usually used to imply paramilitary connections. I have no such paramilitary connections and I never describe myself as a loyalist or a unionist. I am an Ulster-nationalist. It is for these reasons that Ulster Nation and Ulster Third Way have boycotted the sleazy Sunday World. We do not issue press releases to that paper and avoid talking to its reporters. We’re not that desperate for publicity!

One feature of O’Hagan’s style was to write a series of articles about an individual under a nickname. The person would be described in great detail – appearance, habits, haunts, associates, type of car, etc. – everything but his name, but on other pages parallel snippets in the Who? column would refer to the person by name in a slightly different context. Join the dots and you have a name and a target. One of his targets was Billy Wright, the slain founder of the Loyalist Volunteer Force. It was Martin O’Hagan who gave him the ‘King Rat’ nickname. In retrospect, it was no wonder that the LVF nursed a grudge against him and had the means to do something about it.

In a bizarre rambling tribute in the November 2001 issue of Searchlight its publisher, Gerry Gable, drew parallels with the UVF murder bid on Jim Campbell in 1984 and resurrected the old canard that this was connected with what was intended as a humorous Private Eye-style ‘curse’ in the then Young National Front journal Bulldog. Gable seems to claim that O’Hagan had been the victim of a vast rightwing conspiracy involving, among others, me, the fringe Tory magazine Right Now!, the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction, ‘Mad Dog’ Johnny Adair, a German nazi terrorist and the local organiser of the British National Party! At the very least, as some of the people who were active in the old Official NF in the eighties are still active in other groups – myself included - he suggests that we may either have some connection with O’Hagan’s murder, or that we are celebrating it. Both suggestions are wide of the mark as far as Ulster Nation is concerned. We detested him, his methods and his newspaper, but never wished any personal harm to come to him. We unconditionally condemn his murder as we did the bombing of the Sunday World’s offices in October 1992 (see issue 6).

David Kerr

December 2001, updated May 2002


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