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Journalist Liam Clarke 'a master of words and a good man'

By Staff Reporter

Published 06/01/2016

Liam Clarke at home last year
Liam Clarke at home last year
Liam Clarke with his wife Kathryn
The coffin of Belfast Telegraph political editor Liam Clarke arrives at Roselawn yesterday
His widow Kathryn is offered condolences by First Minister Peter Robinson
His widow Kathryn is comforted by a mourner
Lady Sylvia Hermon
Sammy Wilson

Mourners at the funeral service for journalist Liam Clarke were told he was more than just "a master with words" - he was "an enormously talented and decent human being".

The Belfast Telegraph political editor had a rare form of stomach cancer but continued to work right up until his death.

He died suddenly but peacefully early on December 27.

Yesterday friends and family gathered at Roselawn Crematorium near Belfast to pay their last respects to the father, husband, political journalist and Zen Buddhist described by those who knew him as fearless and fair.

He made his name by breaking scores of major stories, and revealed the vast wealth of south Armagh smuggler and senior republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, recently convicted of tax evasion.

Among the hundreds of mourners were First Minister Peter Robinson, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, Lady Hermon MP, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson and Labour Northern Ireland shadow secretary Vernon Coaker.

The service began with Liam's friend, journalist Hugh Jordan, playing musical accompaniment, and featured Buddhist chanting.

In his eulogy, the Rev Earl Storey said: "Liam Clarke was a master with words. Yet his life and work speak more eloquently than any words even he could write. He was an enormously talented and decent human being - a good man."

Mr Storey said that Liam was "more than a journalist and that his passing is felt most deeply and painfully by those closest to him and who loved him the most" - his wife Kathryn and children Adam, Daniel and Alice".

Liam's journalistic career spanned the Troubles, peace process and the Stormont Assembly. He faced IRA death threats after unmasking Murphy and after the publication of a biography of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, his home was raided and he was arrested by police - a move that was successfully challenged by Mr Clarke in the courts.

Born in Drogheda in 1954 to Presbyterian minister the Rev Bill Clarke and his wife Alice, Liam's political interest came early.

As a pupil at Omagh Academy he and another pupil took a day off school to protest at the killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday.

He became a member of the Workers Party where his journalistic career began on a party newspaper, The Northern People.

He moved to the Sunday News, Sunday World and The Sunday Times for two decades, where he was Northern Ireland editor.

He lived in Ballymena and spent his final four years working for the Belfast Telegraph, where he continued to provide incisive political analysis and exclusive stories.

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