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New investigation needed over Martin OHagan murder

While many appalling murders perpetrated by all sides during the Troubles remain officially unsolved, there must still be enormous concern that the killers of the Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan have never been convicted even though their identities are widely known.

When Mr O'Hagan was shot dead while walking to his Lurgan home with his wife, Marie, on September 28, 2001, the then secretary of state, John Reid, said it was a `barbaric' killing and vowed that those responsible would be tracked down.

Other political leaders in both Belfast and Dublin expressed similar views, but the 20th anniversary of the killing will be reached tomorrow with the prospects of a breakthrough appearing as far away as ever.

Mr O'Hagan came from a republican background and served a seven-year jail sentence in the 1970s for firearms offences carried out while he was a member of the Official IRA in the Lurgan area.

He turned away from violence after his release, and became a high profile investigative journalist reporting on the activities of both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups over many years.

His work brought him to the attention of individuals connected to the Loyalist Volunteer Force, who had never forgotten his links to militant republicanism, and a number of serious threats were issued against him.

However, Mr O'Hagan continued to live in the mixed town of Lurgan until he was eventually assassinated by an LVF gang in the most brutal of circumstances.

The names of his alleged killers began to circulate almost immediately, and there were increasingly strong suggestions that some of them were informers who had connections to both the RUC and the British Army.

Four men appeared in court over Mr O'Hagan's killing in 2008, but they denied involvement and the charges were dropped two years later with no further murder prosecutions ever following.

There will be little expectation that those who targeted Mr O'Hagan will be brought to justice, but it is still essential that the full facts surrounding the detailed claims over collusion over his death are finally established.

The National Union of Journalists has marked the anniversary of the murder by proposing that a panel of international experts should be assembled to investigate the background in general and the role of the police in particular.

It is an entirely reasonable request which deserves to be addressed by the authorities as a matter of urgency.

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