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Liam Clarke hailed a 'giant of journalism' following sudden death


Tough battle: Political editor Liam Clarke at his home in Ballymena

Tough battle: Political editor Liam Clarke at his home in Ballymena

Arlene Foster with Belfast Telegraph political editor Liam Clarke

Arlene Foster with Belfast Telegraph political editor Liam Clarke

Liam Clarke

Liam Clarke

Tough battle: Political editor Liam Clarke at his home in Ballymena

DUP leader and First Minister-in-waiting Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have paid their respects to the Belfast Telegraph's Political editor, Liam Clarke, following his sudden death.

The award-winning journalist and author passed away last night.

His wife, Kathryn said on Facebook: "I am very sorry to say that Liam Clarke died very suddenly but peacefully last night."

Mr Clarke joined the Belfast Telegraph as political editor in 2011.

Previously he had worked at the Sunday Times as its Northern Ireland editor for 20 years before becoming a columnist for the paper.

In 2014 he was named CIPR journalist of the year.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Clarke across social media.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was shocked when she heard of Mr Clarke's passing describing him as a "giant of journalism".

"I met Liam in Lisburn just last week. We talked about his health and his family as well as mine. He was very interested - off the record of course. 

"We shared a cup of tea and agreed to have a more political talk in the New Year before my appointment as First Minister. 

"Neither of us thought that cup of tea would be our last together. In fact, we were already thinking of what that interview would look like and where it would be done.

"I am deeply saddened for Kathryn and the children as well as the wider Clarke family. I think today also of his colleagues in the Belfast Telegraph and those he worked within the Sunday Times for many years. As a journalist Liam had an ability to cut through all the padding and get right to the core of a story. 

"He will be missed by us as politicians but of course our grief is overshadowed by that of his family whom he loved dearly and often spoke. 

My thoughts and prayers are with Kathryn and their three children. On behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party I express our dearest sympathy."

Outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson added: "Liam has been reporting on politics for almost as long as I have been in politics.

"His friendly approach was disarming in an interview. You didn't just hear from Liam when he was looking an interview and that distinguished him from many of his peers.

"When he interviewed me before I announced my retirement he was in good spirits and had given me a more encouraging report on his health than had been the case before."

He added: "I was shocked to hear about his death. I sympathise with Kathryn and their children. I assure them of my prayers at this difficult time.  Liam has left a journalistic legacy which will undoubtedly be studied by future generations in that field. His achievements are too numerous to list."

Liam had been battling a rare form of cancer and wrote about his battle with the illness in this newspaper.

The National Union of Journalists, Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said: "I would like to extend sympathy to the family, colleagues and friends of Liam Clarke Political Editor, The Belfast Telegraph and a former officer of Belfast and district branch of the NUJ, who has died.

"Liam was a fearless journalist. He was never afraid to challenge authority and was always prepared to stand up for the principle of media freedom. 

"In the Sunday Times and, more recently in the Belfast Telegraph he covered some of the most significant events in the history of Northern Ireland.

"As a columnist he was  insightful, authoritative and, at times provocative. He commanded respect across the political divide and his death is a loss to journalism in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph