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Widow taunted after south Armagh tribute to IRA victim wrecked

By Angela Rainey

Published 09/08/2016

Betty and Graham Clarke at the memorial
Betty and Graham Clarke at the memorial
Victim William Clarke

Sectarian abuse was hurled at a grieving widow as she visited her husband's roadside memorial after it was desecrated for the second time in south Armagh.

Republican vandals attacked the plaque at the weekend of William Clarke, a Protestant workman murdered by the IRA in 1977.

And as his widow Betty Clarke and son Graham came to survey the £1,000 worth of damage, thugs drove past the pair mocking the memorial, laughing and shouting sectarian insults.

Mrs Clarke (65) said she does not understand why they keep targeting her family.

"These people are sick," she said. "They are the scum of the earth, thugs.

"They have persistently damaged it - but what really is the point of it?

"It was cemented in so they could only have done this with a tractor or a digger. They are destroying my family all over again."

Willie Clarke was a 31-year-old father-of-four from Newtownhamilton. He had been digging drains on April 2, 1977, at a farm in Mullaghbawn when he was abducted and murdered by three masked gunmen.

His body was dumped at Redmond's Cross, about five miles from the border. Mrs Clarke was aged 26 and pregnant with their fourth child at the time of the murder.

At his funeral, a Presbyterian minister said Mr Clarke had no links to paramilitaries or the security forces, "as some would have the world believe".

It is the second time his memorial has been desecrated. In 2012 a mahogany memorial that had been cemented in the Carricknagavanagh Road, Mullaghbawn, was stolen the day before Christmas Eve.

Ulster Unionists Danny Kennedy MLA and Councillor David Taylor condemned the attack describing it as "disgusting and hurtful in the extreme to the widow and family circle of William Clarke".

Mr Kennedy said: "This attack is entirely reprehensible and completely devoid of feeling after nearly 40 years - those responsible are the lowest of the low."

Mr Taylor added: "Members of the Clarke family have suffered in silence since 1977 and borne their grief and loss with enormous dignity.

"Those responsible are seriously sick individuals."

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