The murders of Rosemary Nelson, Martin O’Hagan and Michael McGoldrick are vividly recalled in a book ‘Reporting the Troubles’ by journalists working in NI.
They were tough times and journalists were in the front line, reporting on major bombings, horrific murders and complex political turmoil.
Top reporters from that era recall events from the start of the Troubles in the late 1960s through to the latter days in the 1990s.
Former deputy editor of the Press Association Ireland and former editor of The Detail website, Stephen McCaffrey recalls the last interview he had with human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson’s before she was blown up in by loyalist terrorists outside her home in Lurgan.
In the article he recalls sitting in her tiny Lurgan office while she told him of threats to her life. She had represented the family of Robbie Hamill who lived in Lurgan before he was murdered in a sectarian attack in Portadown. She represented the Garvaghy Residents. And she also represented Lurgan republican Colin Duffy.
It is a harrowing recollection which spans her work as a lawyer, her childhood operations for the strawberry birthmark she was born with and her heartbreaking funeral which was attended by thousands.
A few years before Rosemary’s murder, Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick was killed by loyalist paramilitaries.
Former BBC journalist Noreen Erskine’s article ‘A birthday present for Billy Wright’ recalls the ‘especially poignant’ funeral of Mr McGoldrick who was kiled aged just 31. By his graveside Michael’s father, also called Michael, forgave his son’s killers. His murder was apparently a birthday present for Portadown loyalist Billy Wright.
Noreen said though she had never met Michael, she felt a special connection to him.
‘The Murder of Martin O’Hagan’ was the subject of former Sunday World editor Jim McDowell’s contribution.
“I’d heard there’d been a shooting in Lurgan, Martin O’Hagan’s home town. Nothing unusual about that. The County Armagh town was a hotbed of strife; a place where, when you walked up the street, you could almost bite the sectarianism.”
He writes about driving to Lurgan when he knew it was Martin. In shock, he went to the spot where Martin had been murdered.
“And then, even worse, just at this point an LVF mob gathered on a corner close to the murder scene. They began to an obscene, sectarian chant, the main crass chorus of which was ‘...another Fenian dead’.
Drumcree looms large across the book, with several journalists recalling various events surrounding that contentious period.
Indeed the book as been compiled by a former Portadown Times and UTV reporter Ivan Little as well as former Ireland editor of the Press Association Deric Henderson.
The book has stories by 68 renowned reporters - recalling victims and events that are seared in their memory.
In his introduction to Reporting The Troubles, former peace envoy Senator George Mitchell notes that little has been said or written about “a small group of courageous men and women” – the reporters who through their work made an enormous contribution to the peace effort.
He says this book will leave a lasting a lasting impression and as Mitchell says, “contains accounts of death and life, of loss and survival, of heroism and cowardice, all of which in the aggregate convey the swirl of emotions experienced by those who lived through the Troubles”.
It was a turbulent era with journalists covering some horrific events, journalists who were often despised - even hated for doing their job. There were few accolades during those treacherous times but those journalists who worked through it have some harrowing memories as well as some lighter moments along the way.
‘Reporting the Troubles’ is priced £14.99 is published by Blackstaff Press Colourpoint House, Jubilee Business Park, 21 Jubilee Road, Newtownards, BT23 4YH e: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to buy a copy here is the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reporting-Troubles-Journalists-Northern-conflict/dp/1780731795