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Wednesday, 6 November 2013
MURDER TRIANGLE INTERNMENT OF LETHAL BRITISH ALLIES
The following articel from the Guardian, helps give and insight into murder triangle, Martin Corey was born into and the background to his 23 years in prison, as result of British Occupation and their mentored sectarianism.
Faith, hate and murder
Martin O'Hagan was the first journalist to be killed in the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland. He'd been in the Maze prison and was a fearless reporter on crime and the paramilitaries. Susan McKay describes his life as a marked man - and the revival of religious fundamentalism among the loyalists who claimed they murdered him
On Friday September 28 at around eight o'clock in the evening, Martin O'Hagan went for a drink with his wife, Marie. It was what they always did on a Friday night. They walked, hand in hand, from their house at Westfield Gardens on the edge of town, to the Carnegie Inn. Better known as Father Joes, or Fa' Joes, the handsome old Victorian pub is on Lurgan's main street. The couple had met in Fa' Joes 29 years previously. He was Catholic, she was Protestant. They'd raised three daughters since then. He worked in the Belfast office of the Dublin-based tabloid newspaper, the Sunday World.
Lurgan, in County Armagh, is one of those Northern Irish towns with an invisible dividing line through its centre. Catholic shops on one side of the line, Protestants on the other. A bitter town, in an area which earned the name "murder triangle" during the violent years of the 1970s and 1980s. Its housing estates are dominated by paramilitary factions, Kilwilkie republican, Mourneview loyalist. Fa' Joes was one of the few venues in Lurgan where "mixed" company felt comfortable.
Shortly after 10, the O'Hagans left the pub and headed for home. They'd bought the house a year previously, selling their old house to their eldest daughter, Cara, who was about to get married. They took a slightly different route from their normal one. O'Hagan had been a bit rattled by an incident in the town just over a week previously. A loyalist he knew had accosted him. "You have been clocked walking down here," he'd said. Meaning, noted. Assuming this was a warning, O'Hagan had said, "Thanks for the tip-off." He'd been startled by the vehemence of the man's reply. "It's not a fucking tip-off," he'd snarled.
Westfield Gardens is a terrace of pebble-dashed houses, facing on to playing fields. Behind it lies Mourne-view. The O'Hagans passed by the road leading into the estate. There was a poster stuck on the wall at the corner. It advertised a "Grand Protestant Rally" which was on that night, in the town hall in Ballymena, about an hour's drive to the north: "All true patriots welcome." They were nearly home. They walked past a vehicle parked a few doors down from their house. Behind them, it started to crawl forward. The gunman was in the back. He leaned out of the window and started shooting. Marie thinks her husband must have flung her to safety in the hedge of their neighbours' garden while the bullets flew. O'Hagan fell, caught in the back by three bullets. He was able to tell Marie to get an ambulance but by the time she got back, her husband was dead.
The Grand Protestant Rally in Ballymena started with a prayer. "Our forefathers who gave their lives for Ulster" were invoked, and then the preacher turned to what he called history. "God never makes any mistakes. I am a loyalist and a Protestant. I have a Bible," he said. "We have to look at the persecution of those that would not bow the knee. Northern Ireland is the last bastion of Protestantism. I don't care what anyone says. The papacy is up to its neck in this." The most evil men in history were Roman Catholics, he went on. Hitler. Mussolini. Tony Blair was "a sympathiser with the Irish Republican Army and a Roman Catholic". He had got rid of Peter Mandelson "the only secretary of state with any backbone" to replace him with John Reid - "another RC". Talk about fanatics, he said. "Talk about the Taliban."
While Martin and Marie O'Hagan were enjoying what were to be their last few drinks together, 500 or so loyalists, including a sizeable contingent from Lurgan, were assembled at the rally. Ballymena, County Antrim, is the main town in the heartland of Reverend Ian Paisley's constituency, Northern Ireland's Bible Belt. In 1997, it became notorious for the Harryville protest which followed the banning of a loyalist parade through a nearby Catholic village.
On that occasion, loyalists, many of them drunk, grunted like pigs, roared abuse and hurled missiles at Catholics attending Saturday evening mass at Harryville church. The priest's house was firebombed. Homes were attacked and people beaten up in their beds. A preacher declared that this was "the ancient battle between the true church, Protestantism, and the Whore, the Beast and the Baal worshippers within Catholicism."
In Ballymena's town hall, men in baseball hats with strong, tattooed arms sat alongside girls in belly tops with union flags picked out in rhinestones and neat ladies with handbags. A drummer battered a big Lambeg drum. There was trouble over the handful of journalists who'd turned up. One of the organisers, Mark Harbinson, had urged us to come, but now, he said, there was a problem.
There'd been a "scurrilous" article that day in the Irish News (the Northern Irish daily favoured by Catholics). People were angry, he said, but he'd do his best for us. We were sent to the minor hall, where security men with shaved heads grinned at us and didn't talk. A woman appeared from a side door. "Does any of youse want tea?" she asked. Harbinson came back and said we could come in, but there was to be no recording, and no photographs.
Harbinson is an Orangeman who came to prominence at the protests at Drumcree, which he described in a speech as "Ulster's Alamo". He is a member of Stoneyford Orange Lodge, at Lisburn, near Belfast. In 1999 its Orange Hall was raided by police, who took away intelligence files on 400 or so republican suspects. The material had been downloaded from computers at the British army's NI headquarters in Lisburn. Harbinson later told me no documents had been found. The whole incident had been contrived "to blacken my name", he said.
When Harbinson took the stage in Ballymena, he urged the crowd to make sure to sign the "Ulster Protestant Covenant" which had been distributed. "There's major things planned," he said. "The media is here so there are some things that won't be discussed in their presence." He denounced the Irish News article: "Let me tell you, we are not terrorists - the terrorists are in government at Stormont." He introduced Jim Dixon, who was critically injured when the IRA bombed the cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987, killing 11 people. The crowd rose, cheering and clapping. Dixon, whose face is permanently ravaged by his injuries, said he was inspired by the "zeal" of the organisers of the rally. He spoke about watching the IRA prisoners, "those evil people", leaving prison as a result of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. "It would make your blood curdle," he said.
"The rot began when they were let into government. Our country is in peril. Let us look at the treachery that has been visited upon us. What sort of government tells us that sodomy is good? That abortion should be allowed? Have they forgotten about justice?
"Our forefathers spared neither blood, sweat nor tears to provide our heritage. We want an end to power-sharing, an end to cross border bodies. Our enemies are the pan nationalist front. We have to face the truth, that Britain no longer wants us and we need some form of independence. The republic wants our country but not our people." Dixon said Tony Blair was a weakling, and an evil man. "I told him the blood of this country is upon his hands."
The pan nationalist front is the term used by unionists for the combined forces of the Catholic church, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Sinn Fein and the Gaelic Athletic Association. In other words, Catholics.
Then Harbinson was back, to give the main speech of the evening. "This is not about the saving of souls. This is about organising the fightback of the loyalist people," he said, to roars of approval. "George Bush said countries that harbour terrorists would not be spared. If that's the case, I'll be waiting for the B52s to flatten Dublin." The crowd cheered and stamped. "The Orange Order is the last bastion of our defence. The order was not set up as a Christian organisation but as a defender for the Protestant faith."
Harbinson said this was the start of a new movement. "We are building towards a united show of Protestant defence for early next year. Have courage, brothers and sisters. No surrender!" He returned to the covenant. It was modelled, he said, on the Solemn League and Covenant of 1912. The original covenant, launched by unionism's leaders, pledged opposition to Home Rule for Ireland, and was signed by almost 500,000 Protestants. At the ceremony to launch it in Belfast, the then Presbyterian moderator had declared that, "the Irish question is at bottom a war against Protestantism".
"The covenant says we will use all means necessary to achieve our ends. Those are the exact words of the original," said Harbinson. "And remember. It is every democrat's right to raise arms in defence of democracy. Never let it be said otherwise." They closed with what Harbinson called Ulster's traditional battle hymn, "Oh God our help in ages past". This too, had been sung in 1912. This time, although copies of the hymn were circulated, few among the crowd even knew the tune. Dixon played an electric accordion with flashing lights.
Afterwards, the organisers were ecstatic. "We now have a massive mandate," said Harbinson. "Everything is being considered. Wait and see. We are fighting for our very existence. The only time the loyalist people was successful was the Ulster Workers Council strike in 1974." That strike, the muscle for which was provided by the loyalist paramilitaries, brought down the previous attempt at powersharing in Northern Ireland. Harbinson said that even if 99% of the people in NI voted for a United Ireland, he would oppose it: "Who said I was a democrat?" Few among the departing crowd were willing to talk to journalists. "The media is against us," said a woman. "The whole world is against us."
Owen Martin O'Hagan, known to all as Marty, was the first journalist to be murdered in the course of 30 years of Northern Ireland's most recent "Troubles". His reporting career had included scrapes that would have frightened less brave souls into early retirement long ago. The eldest of six children, he was born in 1950. His father, a Lurgan man, was a British soldier. It wasn't an unusual career choice for Catholics back then. O'Hagan's early childhood was spent in army bases around Germany. The family moved back to Lurgan when he was four. His father left the army and ran a television repair shop, and Martin left school at 15 to work for him. His parents separated, his father leaving for London.
Martin was 18 when the civil rights marchers were battered by the RUC on the streets of Derry. He'd already joined official Sinn Fein, known as the Stickies, drawn by its republican socialism. His mother, worried about the rising tide of political strife, urged him to go and live in Dublin for a while.
The then secretary of Official Sinn Fein, Mairin de Burca, recalled what happened when US President Richard Nixon came to town. "Martin and I went out and bought six eggs which we started to throw. We didn't run fast enough and we got arrested. Luckily for us, the judge didn't seem to like Nixon either. He fined us £2 each and let us go. Marty was a grand lad. He had a good heart."
Back in Lurgan, O'Hagan got into more serious weapons. He was interned in 1971 and spent a year in the Official IRA compound in the Maze prison. He was frequently arrested and interrogated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). In 1973 he was convicted on arms offences and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released from the Maze in 1978. Like many others of that prison generation, he educated himself. After his release, he did a sociology degree through the Open University and the University of Ulster.
Andy Pollak, then the editor of the left-wing Belfast magazine, Fortnight, said Martin just walked in one day in 1982 and said he wanted to be a journalist. Pollak took him on. "He was full of enthusiasm and hugely committed. We had almost no money so everyone did everything. Martin would write - he'd also drive the van to Dublin and take the magazine from shop to shop. "He had a courage bordering on recklessness. He'd go and get the stories other people were afraid to touch. Very few journalists have risked going in among these really heavy guys in the paramilitary and criminal worlds. Martin lived cheek by jowl with them. He was the original muckraker - and they hated him for it."
He was also, Pollak recalled, "anti-establishment, utterly unsectarian and with a great sense of humour. Lovely." Lurgan is a small town, its rancours shockingly intimate. O'Hagan knew everyone. He was good company, and he drank in working-class bars. He and Marie were by this time living in the house they bought for £400 on Clara Street, a Catholic enclave near the railway station, where they stayed until the move to Westfield Gardens. O'Hagan converted the old toilet in the backyard into a tiny office.
The journalist Kevin Toolis, then working for the Irish News, met him at this time, and described him as having a "suicidal bravery". He recounted how O'Hagan had brought him on a tour of Lurgan on the "eleventh night", the night before the big Orange celebrations of the 12th of July. The tour included an attempt to have a drink in a loyalist bar, which ended swiftly in a running fight.
O'Hagan came into his own as a journalist after he met the man he regarded as his mentor, Jim Campbell, who was running the Belfast office of the Sunday World from his home in north Belfast. "It was a strange relationship," said Campbell. "We were almost of an age, but I was a sort of father figure." The two men started running stories on loyalist paramilitaries in mid-Ulster, focusing in particular on a leading Ulster Volunteer Force figure known as the Jackal, who'd been involved in several of what remain the worst massacres of the Troubles.
In 1984, the UVF hit back. They shot and critically injured Campbell. "Marty blamed himself because he'd provided a lot of the information we were working on," he said. They moved the paper's offices into two rooms in the Europa Hotel, famous for the number of times it has been bombed. "Marty really rattled the paramilitaries because he had such good contacts," said John Keane, a friend and colleague of O'Hagan's.
"He'd be able to tell you what they had for breakfast before they went out to kill. He had a cynical eye and he was very aware of the sub-structure of society, the unusual alliances, the way people weren't always what they seemed. He was an atheist and a Marxist, liable to start spouting Hegel if you gave him a chance. He used to say, my enemy's enemy is my friend. Very little that happened in Northern Ireland would have surprised Marty."
The paper moved again, to offices in Belfast's High Street. In 1991, the Sunday World ran several stories about an "inner circle" of policemen collaborating with loyalist killers in mid-Ulster. With O'Hagan as one of his researchers, London-based reporter Sean McPhilemy vastly expanded on this in a TV documentary, which also implicated top unionist politicians and business people.
This work would eventually lead to the controversial book, The Committee. Published in the US in 1998, it advances a massive Northern Ireland-wide conspiracy theory, and names many individuals.
O'Hagan had upset the Provisional IRA, too. In 1990, after he'd written a series of articles about splits in the republican movement, he got a call from a republican contact who tricked him into travelling to South Armagh. Kevin Toolis interviewed O'Hagan about the episode for his book, Rebel Hearts. O'Hagan recounted how he was accosted by a masked gunman, hooded, bundled into a car and driven off. When he was taken out of the car, he asked them what they wanted to talk about. They laughed. "You," they said. "I heard the click of guns," he told Toolis. He remained blindfolded while they interrogated him for 14 hours about his informants. It emerged later that they had found his phone number in a notebook on the body of an RUC man they had murdered. O'Hagan was impressed at their interrogation techniques, which were, he said, as good, if not better than the RUC's. However, with a journalist's detachment, O'Hagan noted the narrowness of their minds, the "cocoon world" they inhabited.
They told him they were going to kill him, and he believed them. He knew their form. "Nothing so concentrates the mind as the prospect of being shot dead in a few hours," he told Toolis. In the end they put him in the car they told him was a hearse: "I panicked and said, 'You bastards are going to kill me now.' " Again, they laughed and told him he was lucky: "But there are a lot of others who lay where you are lying now who were shot."
Undeterred, the following year, O'Hagan revealed that a young woman called Margaret Perry, who had disappeared from her home in Portadown, had been murdered by the IRA and buried in a shallow grave in the Republic. The IRA denied it, but her body was later found.
By the early 1990s, O'Hagan was writing about a brutal young man called Billy Wright, a rising star of the Ulster Volunteer Force in its mid-Ulster powerbase of Portadown, a few miles from O'Hagan's home. Wright's gang liked to call themselves the Bratpack. O'Hagan renamed them the "ratpack", and gave Wright the name under which he was to become notorious: King Rat. In 1992, the Ulster Volunteer Force bombed the Sunday World's Belfast offices. Campbell recalled that O'Hagan wasn't there that morning. "He was actually in the Maze, getting beaten up by a loyalist prisoner. This guy had contacted him and claimed he had a story for him. When Marty got there, the guy grabbed him and gave him a doing."
Within hours of the bombing, the Ulster Volunteer Force issued a death threat against everyone who worked for the Sunday World in Belfast. Reporter Jim McDowell (now Northern Editor) was summonsed to a meeting in the paramilitary army's headquarters. Billy Wright said O'Hagan's stories had to stop, and delivered a personal threat: "If anything happens to Billy Wright or his family, he will visit the same tenfold on Martin O'Hagan and his family."
The paper moved O'Hagan south of the border to Dublin, and then to Cork. It was an unhappy time for him. He felt his employers had capitulated to intimidation. He was living alone in hotels and bedsits. Marie and the three girls had stayed in Lurgan. He wanted home, and two years later he was back
Drumcree becoAme the symbol of Protestant resistance to the new power-sharing political order in Northern Ireland. It began in 1995 when nationalist residents of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown (a few miles from Lurgan) demanded that the Orange Order parade from Drumcree church through their area be re-routed. In the stand-off that ensued, the Reverend Ian Paisley declared that it was a matter of "Ulster or the Irish Republic . . . freedom or slavery". The protest - which has taken place on an annual basis ever since - represents a revival of the old order within unionism, with Orangeism, which is explicitly anti-Catholic, as the organising principle.
In 1995, after two days of violence, mediation between local nationalists and the Order took place and a limited parade was allowed. In 1996, the parade was banned. While police and soldiers held the Orangemen back behind steel barricades, Billy Wright - who by this time had a terrifying reputation throughout mid-Ulster - sent his gang to murder a Catholic. The chief constable changed his ruling. The parade would be allowed, he said, because otherwise too many lives might be lost.
The Ulster Volunteer Force had ordered Wright not to get involved in the Drumcree dispute. The murder was his answer. The UVF, then on ceasefire, expelled him, giving him 24 hours to leave the country or face execution. Among those who stood up for his right to "freedom of speech" was one of the Reverend Ian Paisley's right hand men, Free Presbyterian preacher, Pastor Willie McCrea.
Wright formed a new paramilitary group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, denouncing his old leaders in the Ulster Volunteer Force as "communists" (this was because the UVF's politcal wing had talked of making common cause with working class nationalists). He started preaching old-style Protestant fundamentalism - in keeping with the ideology of the Orange Order and the theology of Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church. He also ran a lucrative drugs business and protection racket. That same year, he was jailed for intimidation; he was murdered in prison by republican dissidents in 1997. But his legacy lived on.
The Drumcree parade was forced through in 1997. Afterwards the chief constable again cited the fear that loyalists would kill Catholics. However other Orange parades - traditionally a way of showing Catholics "who is master" - were banned, and the ban stuck. To loyalists, it looked like the government was capitulating to republicans. A humiliation too far. The killings continued.
In 1998, the new parades commission banned Drumcree. Loyalists caused mayhem across Northern Ireland. The ban was upheld. In the early hours of the July 12, loyalists petrol bombed a house in Ballymoney, burning to death three little boys, Mark, Richard and Jason Quinn. Nevertheless, to the fury of unionists, the parades commission has continued to ban Drumcree and other contentious parades in the three years which have followed. Each summer now, ugly graffiti proliferate on walls in towns and villages across Northern Ireland, including the initials, KAT, meaning Kill All Taigs. And each year loyalist groups have held rallies upholding the "God given right to march". At one such rally in County Antrim, a self-styled pastor called Clifford Peeples burned a copy of the recently signed Good Friday Agreement. There were speakers from Paisley's party. A few hours later a student was murdered in Crumlin, a village in Antrim, once predominantly Protestant, that now has a Catholic majority. More than 40% of Northern Ireland's present population is Catholic. For loyalists, the fear of being engulfed, overrun, outbred, ethnically cleansed, is a potent one.
Pastor Peeples, the owner of a Belfast fish and chip shop, is currently in jail, convicted in 1999 of possession of guns and pipe bombs. He once painted the name "Ichabod" on to the wall of a leisure centre in Belfast, and told the police God had instructed him to do it. Ichabod was the son of an Old Testament prophet. His name means the glory that has departed from Israel.
The RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan, dubbed Peeples and his associates "the demon pastors". They specialise in recounting lurid stories of Catholic savagery towards Protestants, and in finding biblical justifications for Protestant retaliation.
It was loyalists inspired by this kind of rhetoric who revived the Orange Volunteers, a "Doomsday" organisation which first appeared in 1972, and devised the so-called Red Hand Defenders. The Red Hand was not an organisation but a flag of convenience allowing paramilitaries meant to be observing ceasefires, to claim responsibility for acts of violence, without losing the privileges they got from the Good Friday Agreement. Those who have rallied under this flag include members of all the main groups opposed to the Agreement and supportive of the Orange Order at Drumcree - the Loyalist Volunteer Force, the Ulster Defence Association, and the Orange Volunteers. Their hero is Billy Wright. "He did what he had to do to ensure that our faith and culture were kept intact," according to a gunman during a paramilitary display in Portadown during Drumcree in 2000. To date approximately a dozen people have been murdered in parades-related violence.
In 1999, the Red Hand Defenders claimed the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson, who had represented the nationalist residents of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown in their legal battles with the Orange Order. Leaflets circulated before her death linked her with a Jesuit plot to massacre Protestants.
They have also threatened to kill the parents of the girls at the Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast, who have in any case, during the past two months, run the gauntlet of loyalist protesters hurling sectarian abuse and plastic bags full of urine at them. Speakers at the Grand Protestant Rally in Ballymena expressed solidarity with the protesters. If the Orange Order couldn't walk the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, they argued, why should these people be allowed walk to school through a Protestant street in Belfast?
O'Hagan came back to Lurgan in 1994, and resumed work for the Sunday World in Belfast. The IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries had declared ceasefires. "He knew he was still at risk, but he was desperate for home and decided to brazen it out," said Jim Campbell.
He returned to his old beat - paramilitaries and crime. In the last two years of his life, he wrote, for example, about how the neo-Nazi Combat 18 group had been circulating a leaflet about the late Rosemary Nelson. The leaflet, headed "monster mashed", claimed that Protestants were being "ethnically cleansed" from Portadown. O'Hagan incensed dissident loyalists when he interviewed "Crip" McWilliams, one of the republicans who murdered Billy Wright. He then went on to write a prominent article accusing McWilliams of having stalked a schoolgirl.
He wrote about one of the "disappeared" - a woman who had been abducted - revealing that the IRA man responsible tried, years later, to force her family to pay for information about where her body is hidden. He wrote about Ministry of Defence efforts to block the interrogation of an undercover soldier. And he wrote about loyalist drug dealing.
O'Hagan was a tabloid writer through and through. "All he wanted was to be a hack," said Jim McDowell. "And we are white knuckle hacks." He wrote stories with headlines like "Alien-snatch DJ gets French letter". Another tale featured two pictures - one of an Orangeman in suit and sash, the other, taken from a sex contact magazine, of the same man, naked and with a box number covering his private parts.
O'Hagan was the joint Belfast secretary of the National Union of Journalists, and insisted that his employers abide by proper procedures on issues such as contracts and bullying. In 1999, he campaigned on behalf of the distinguished journalist Ed Moloney who was brought to court in a failed attempt to get him to hand over notebooks. (These contained details of an interview with a loyalist alleging security force collusion in the murder of the prominent lawyer, Pat Finucane.) He gave evidence on behalf of Sean McPhilemy in his successful libel case against the Sunday Times. Afterwards, he wrote in the NUJ's magazine that he felt vindicated. Colleagues said when trainee reporters came into the office, it was O'Hagan who took them under his wing. "He was a thoroughly decent guy," said his news editor, Richard Sullivan.
'It's nice to see Martin's making the news instead of writing it. Keep up the good work! LVF. Lead the way.' (from the guest book of the Orange Volunteers website, dated September 30, two days after the murder of Martin O'Hagan). 'Shove ur [sic] dove, and Marty.' (new graffiti in Mourneview).
The Irish News article which so angered the Grand Protestant Committee had drawn attention to the fact that the Ballymena rally was advertised on a loyalist website which promotes the Orange Volunteers. And the poster for the event in fact included the website address. The town hall was booked by the "Loyalist Cultural Society" which is the registered owner of the site.
At the website, you can read the OV's "back to war" statement, issued in February this year. "We don't want to lift the gun," it said. "But any democrat has the right to lift arms in the defence of democracy." This echoed the 1912 Ulster Covenant, in the words also chosen by Harbinson. The statement was given to a television reporter at a meeting which began with a Bible reading and ended with prayers. In between, men in balaclavas showed off guns.
The site's "guest book" is full of messages about "fenian scum" and "spawn of Rome". Many written before September 28 enthuse about the forthcoming rally. One, posted on September 26, by "Big C", starts: "Friday night can't come soon enough for many people. I see the Sunday World were at their work at the weekend but sure we can expect nothing less from the rag that first reported the existence of the Ôcommittee' laughable as it was. I only wish it had been true as we wouldn't have to fight again, the war would have been over long ago." The "committee" referred to is the subject of Sean McPhilemy's book of the same name, with which O'Hagan was connected. The weekend before the Ballymena rally, the Sunday World, O'Hagan's paper, had reported that "loyalist terror gangs" planned to hijack it, and that one of the organisers had said paramilitaries would be welcome.
One message, from "Coleraine loyalist", asks if there is a local Orange Volunteers branch, adding, "I'm interested in joining." The editor replies, "Have you been to any of the rallies? There are three more coming up soon. Maybe you could make yourself known (private message) or to the security staff on the night and what you are about."
Big C has another message, three days after the murder of O'Hagan, promising to reveal "what this man was like". He claims that O'Hagan wrote a story alleging that his Orange Lodge was a recruiting ground for the Loyalist Volunteer Force. This was, he said, "a scurrilous lie".
Republicans had been seen near the lodge since, "so I say good riddance to someone who lived off stories from the dregs of society and who himself was a member of the official IRA and an enemy of Ulster".
When O'Hagan told him he was going to buy the house at Westfield Gardens, his former editor and friend, Jim Campbell warned against it. "I said to Marty, you and I will always be targets," he said. Campbell lives in the Republic. "But Marty thought things had changed." Marie O'Hagan's mother lives in Mourneview, and the house was a good price, because of its location, on what is known in NI as a "frontline". By all accounts, O'Hagan loved his new home. He was planning to install a pond with a fountain in the back garden.
And yet. A five minute walk from his house, O'Hagan must have seen in Mourneview - a twisted tribute to his way with words - gable walls painted with graffiti boasting that the "Mid Ulster Rat Pack" remained defiant. He knew that vicious loyalist feuding meant that many of Billy Wright's gang in the Loyalist Volunteer Force had moved from Portadown to Lurgan. He knew his killers. Like Rosemary Nelson, his attachment to the intimacy of small town Lurgan, kept him close to those he knew hated him.
Within hours of the murder, the RUC said the Loyalist Volunteer Force was suspected. The gun had been used before in a feud murder. It is believed that it was in the keeping of two brothers in Antrim, one of whom had been involved in a previous parades-related murder. The gun was brought to Lurgan by a man from Dungannon, Co Tyrone. The theory is that the man who pulled the trigger was a leading figure in the LVF, one of the original rat pack, a man who first killed as a teenager.
Why was O'Hagan killed? As with Rosemary Nelson, there is a range of reasons, any or all of which may have contributed. Wright had cursed him, and the grudge was still held by those for whom King Rat is a dead hero, a martyr for Ulster. The gangsters didn't like what he wrote, and loyalists are notoriously aggressive towards journalists. It appears he was working on a new story about collusion between loyalists and the security forces. Then again, O'Hagan was an "uppity taig" moving into a nice house in a Protestant part of town. Above all, he was a soft target. Since his murder, there have been two attempted murders of Catholic taxi drivers in Mourneview.
However, more disturbing than the mindset of the extremists on the fringes of unionist society in Northern Ireland, is the fact that many of their views are close to mainstream. It was Paisley, whose views on the current political regime are shared by around half of Northern Irish protestants, who spoke of Drumcree as "a matter of life or death". He also said that "the entire pan nationalist front" backed the "beast of fascism, the IRA", and called the Good Friday Agreement "a prelude to genocide".
It is against the rules of the Orange Order for a member of the brethren to marry a Catholic. Yet Orangemen who have murdered Catholics have been honoured. The Orange Order won't meet nationalist leaders who are former IRA men. But rallies planned by Orangemen are advertised on posters bearing the addresses of websites with information on illegal paramilitary organisations.
After the murder of a policeman in connection with the parades, the Ulster Unionist MP and then Grand Master of the Orange Order, Martin Smyth, said he regretted that "there were men on the ground receiving the consequences of a wrong decision by a senior police officer". After another, an Orange spokesman said, "Unfortunately when you are standing up for liberties, sometimes the cost of those liberties can be very high." UUP leader and First Minister, David Trimble, is an Orangeman, as are many of his UUP colleagues. His position as First Minister of the Assembly in Belfast is precarious, and a majority of his party's MPs at Westminster are against the Agreement he upholds. He is to a considerable degree a hostage to the hardliners.
All summer loyalist paramilitaries hid behind the Red Hand Defenders flag to carry out hundreds of pipe bombings. They killed two young Catholics, and orchestrated serious rioting and the Holy Cross "protest". Hours before O'Hagan was murdered, secretary of state John Reid had pulled back from declaring that the Ulster Defence Association, the largest loyalist group, had broken its ceasefire, but warned that if there was any more violence, he would proscribe it. The next day, after the murder, he dithered. He condemned the murder, as did the local MP, David Trimble, but neither attended O'Hagan's funeral.
"Many of the things that are said about Catholics in Northern Ireland couldn't legally be said about, say, black people, or women. Try exchanging the words," said commentator and historian, Brian Feeney. "But the only legislation available is the incitement to hatred order, and it doesn't work - a complainant has to prove that there was an intention to incite. Back in 1972, Lord Scarman wrote in his report on the causes of the civil disturbances in 1969: 'Those who live in a free country must accept as legitimate the powerful expression of views opposed to their own, even if it is accompanied by exaggeration, scurrility and abuse.' That remains the case."
Reid has since proscribed both the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association. The Red Hand Defenders and Orange Volunteers were proscribed in 1999.
Support for the movement for an independent Ulster is minimal, and few believe that a mass mobilisation such as was seen in 1912 and again in 1974 will happen again. There is no going back to the old unionist state. But speeches such as those heard at the Grand Protestant Rally heighten fear, encourage anger, and, in the end, do not empower Protestants to deal with the new political realities.
Atavistic terrors and sectarian hatreds are easily ignited into paranoia and violence in a Northern Ireland far from settled into peace. There will always be soft targets for the new breed of fundamentalist loyalist paramilitaries, who are rallying around the "God given right to march" issue. They are at once serving their own criminal interests, and obeying "ancestral voices, prophecying war".
The Red Hand Defenders claimed they killed Martin O'Hagan for his "crimes against the loyalist people". Their statement ended, as their statements always do: "God save Ulster." Three further Grand Protestant Rallies are planned; the final one is to be in Craigavon Civic Centre, close to both Portadown and Lurgan. The scheduled date is March 15: the anniversary of the murder of Rosemary Nelson