BROOKE GLADSTONE: In Northern Ireland, 30 years of terror claimed another victim last Saturday. Reporter Martin O'Hagen specialized in the underworld in Belfast, and it was there that the Red Hand Defenders, a Loyalist or Protestant paramilitary group, shot him dead in a driveby attack.
Just another murder on the books, but not of course to his colleague Richard Sullivan who worked with him on the outspoken tabloid called The Sunday World.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: Martin O'Hagen was a dedicated professional journalist but above all was a good guy. He was a good husband, a father to 3 lovely daughters, and just somebody who, who lived--what I would call a good life and who was committed to what he did for a living.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Now it's been 30 years since this latest round in the struggle over Northern Ireland began. About 3600 people have lost their lives, but there had never been a journalist until now. Why do you think Martin O'Hagen was the first?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: He, he was very much what we would call a classic investigative reporter, and in this part of the world, if you're an investigative report you investigate terrorist organizations. They got him because he was too close to the truth.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But certainly journalists have gotten close to the truth before. How come they've been given a pass by the terrorists until now?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: I think we've all thought, we've all believed that there was a-- almost an unwritten code that they recognized what we did for a living and what we had to do. We weren't safe. We've all been threatened. We've all been in the middle of this for a long, long time, but-- we never felt that we would be deliberately targeted as such.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is it because they needed you?
RICHARD SULLIVAN:Well I, I think that's part of it. I think yeah, they, they needed us and, and to an extent they used us as we used them for, for stories, but-- I really just think that, that we all felt that there was a, a recognition that journalists were trying to deliver news to both sides of the community here, and as such we, we probably wouldn't be targeted for murder.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is The Sunday World regarded as a pro-Catholic paper?
RICHARD SULLIVAN:By very nature of the conflict here, papers are traditionally Unionist or traditionally Nationalist/Republican. We, we are not like that. We, we expose Loyalist paramilitaries. We expose Republican terrorists. So we annoy the - both sides in [LAUGHS] equal measure if we can put it like that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How has O'Hagen's death changed the atmosphere in your newsroom?
RICHARD SULLIVAN:There's a void in here. It -- no news editor before me or my, my editor have ever had to deal with the fact that we've lost one of our reporters, so, so it's a very unreal feeling.
But underlining it all is a complete determination to continue to expose these people - not to step back from what we have done for the last 30 years.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Do you think that that feeling is felt throughout newsrooms in Northern Ireland or do you think that people may hang back because of this?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: The messages of support that we have got from our colleagues on other papers and broadcast media is very much keep going -- we're all in this together - and the murder on Marty was an attack on us all - not just The Sunday World.
And I, and I would agree with that. This was an attack on free speech and-- we're all in that game. That is very much the feeling that I'm coming across -- we're all in this together.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Martin O'Hagen's death is just one among 3,600 deaths. Do you think his death will have any impact on the peace process?
RICHARD SULLIVAN:There have been so many watersheds in Northern Ireland - so, so many awful atrocities and, and so many times we've said that this can't happen again. This, this is surely going to change things. And so many times we've been let down and, and it has gone on. But this time I feel that they've crossed a line, and, and I'm not just saying this because Marty was one of our own-- I get the feeling, and I - from talking to members of the public, from talking to members of the political establishment that this has now got to stop. That there are no rules any more --where do you now draw the line in the sand?
BROOKE GLADSTONE:As someone who works in lower Manhattan, 6 blocks from the World Trade Center, that sense of line in the sand is felt everywhere, and on the other hand also that sense that there's no real resolution.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: We, we sat and watched the pictures from New York and like everybody - every other decent person in the world we were utterly horrified and, and may I say that we send our complete condolences and sympathy to the people of New York.
But-- we, we know how - what that feels like, and-- we have lost 3,600 people out of a population of only 1.4 million. If you, if you extrapolate that in a comparative number that's 480,000 of U.S. citizens.
We have felt a, a frustration that that has been tolerated by the rest of the world, and it has been allowed to continue, and now the powers that be realize that we must sit up and do something about this! This is the scourge of the world at the moment, and-- we have lived with it for a very long time -- right on our doorstep - every day, and, and it - it's an awful way to live!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Richard Sullivan, thank you very much.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Richard Sullivan is the news editor of The Sunday World. [MUSIC TAG]