LIAM CLARKE

LIAMCLARKE

The late Liam Clarke

Sudden death is always difficult for relatives to come to terms with. Liam Clarke had made known his illness (a rare form of stomach cancer) but it was nevertheless a shock to hear that he had passed away peacefully at his home in Ballymena in the early hours of Sunday 27th December just after Christmas. Condolences to his wife Kathryn, his three children and extended family members.

Liam was a practising Zen Buddhist and in June 2014 when he wrote in the Belfast Telegraph about being diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei he said: “the beauty of life in the face of death is a very Zen concept. Every moment should be lived as if it was our last – as it could be. It isn’t a delay to be endured while waiting for something better, it is complete in itself.”

The funeral service took place in Roselawn Crematorium outside Belfast on Tuesday afternoon, as reported in the News Letter. Yesterday there was a simple Zen Buddhist service at his home, led by Ingen K. Breen.

Liam was one of the best-known journalists in Ireland. His most recent position was as political editor of the Belfast Telegraph, which he took up in 2011. He had previously worked for the Sunday Times as its Northern Ireland editor for twenty years before becoming a columnist for the paper. In 2014, he was named journalist of the year by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, 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.”

The editor of the Belfast Telegraph, Gail Walker, said Mr Clarke had been the pre-eminent political journalist of his generation.

“Just a few days ago, Liam delivered what was to sadly prove his last big exclusive, a brilliant in-depth interview with first minister-in-waiting Arlene Foster. Liam told me how much he’d enjoyed the encounter and I know he got a great buzz from landing yet another scoop”, she said.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said her thoughts and prayers were with Mr Clarke’s family.

“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”, she said.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister, said he was sorry to learn of Mr Clarke’s passing. Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said Mr Clarke had been a household name for many.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Clarke was a good journalist and a good man. “Liam Clarke is one of the most recognisable names in Irish journalism,” he said.

“That’s due not only to his distinguished career and remarkable work ethic, but to his warm character and his good nature. Never one to give any politician an easy ride, Liam’s enduring professional qualities were his straight-talking style and his dogged determination”, he said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, a former broadcasting journalist, said he was “stunned and deeply saddened” by Mr Clarke’s death. He said Liam was hugely professional, always probing and persistent, yet also totally trustworthy.

“He was someone worth reading, listening to and following. News journalists do a job that some people do not always like, so the journalist’s ambition must be to earn respect, which is quite a challenge in a divided society like ours. Liam won that universal respect, deservedly so”, Mr Nesbitt said.

Rest in Peace.

The Monaghan Connection

CLARKEPIPER

William Clarke, Ballybay Piper

Liam explored his family history and wrote about his grandfather from County Monaghan, William Clarke, known as the Ballybay Piper because of his skills as a musician playing the uilleann pipes. Local historian the late Peadar Murnane wrote about William in an article published six years ago by the Ireland Newsletter:

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WILLIAM CLARKE, THE BALLYBAY PIPER

by Peadar Murnane

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The son of a third generation Scottish Presbyterian family who settled in Cornahoe, near Ballybay, County Monaghan where Robert William Clarke was born on 29th. October 1889. The family moved to thetownland of Carga and later to Dunmaurice where the family was reared. The probability is that they all attended the National School at Cornanure until they were old enough to walk to the town school in Hall Street. At this time Cornanure was an interdenominational school. Although the only son and the one best entitled to inherit and work the farm, young Willie opted for a less laborious and more interesting occupation.

On leaving school, he ‘went to serve his time’ to the Ballybay jeweller and watchmaker, Patrick Duffy. He finished his apprenticeship with Mercers of Enniskillen and returned to Ballybay to commence business in Main St. in premises formerly occupied by Marcella Brown. He married Margaret Johnston from Clontibret and they had a family of two boys, Thomas and William and a daughter, Nancy. Thomas (Tom) joined the RAF during World War Two and was killed in action. William (Willie) is a Minister of the Presbyterian Church, now retired in Eglinton, Co. Derry [Liam’s father]. Nancy is married and lives in England.

There was no musical tradition in the Dunmaurice Clarkes but when young Willie by chance met up with ‘The Piper Ward’ from Oghill, his latent talent soon surfaced. Ward introduced Clarke to the Uilleann pipes and Highland Bagpipes and gave him a sound grinding on the rudiments of both instruments and taught him the skills of reading and writing music. Pipe bands and fife and drum bands were a common feature of parish life in Co. Monaghan in the early 1900’s. The Orange Lodges, the Hibernians, the Foresters, Land Leaguers and Home Rulers sustained their faith and enthusiasm through their bands and banners. Willie Clarke was responsible for the formation of the Ballybay Pipe Band in 1919. He brought the recruits together, trained them and raised funds to procure instruments and uniforms. One of their first public appearances was at the Peace Celebrations held in Leslie Demesne (Ballybay) in August 1919. Their band room was in Church St., opposite the old National School which later became their headquarters. This was also the meeting place of the local Orange Lodge No. 211. It was inevitable that an amalgamation would take place. Not every member of the band was an Orangeman. Many like Fred Braden, were members of the band for the sheer love of pipe music. Fred was a Methodist.

It was very appropriate that when Willie Clarke died in 1934 the name of the band was changed to the “William Clarke Memorial Pipe Band”. During his short life, Willie soon attracted the company of such noted Uilleann and Warpipe players as the Carolans of Dopey Mills, near Newbliss; Michael Keenan of Glassleck, near Shercock; Philip Martin of Kilturk, near Newtownbutler who used to cycle to Ballybay for piping sessions with Clarke and the Moorheads from Doohamlet.

Robert William Clarke died in 1934 aged 45. His remains lie buried in the graveyard of Second Ballybay Presbyterian Church.

Peadar Murnane, local historian, Ballybay.

NUJ LIFE MEMBERS BELFAST

Michael Fisher presented with NUJ life membership by Seamus Dooley  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

Michael Fisher presented with NUJ life membership by Seamus Dooley Photo: © Kevin Cooper

At a meeting organised by the Belfast and District Branch of the National Union of Journalists a number of reporters and a photographer were awarded life membership of the union, having belonged to the NUJ for over forty years. I was presented with my certificate by the Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley and somehow I managed to receive two of them! Seamus pointed out that my father Des is also a long-time NUJ member (he helped to start the Irish South Eastern Branch when he started work in Carlow) as is my sister Carolyn who also worked in RTÉ.

Michael Fisher presented with 1913 lockout centenary coin by Gerry Curran  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

Michael Fisher presented with 1913 lockout centenary coin by Gerry Curran Photo: © Kevin Cooper

The Cathaoirleach of the Irish Executive Council Gerry Curran presented me with a limited edition coin, issued last year to mark the centenary of the 1913 lockout in Dublin, which I was very proud to receive in recognition of my contribution to the NUJ in Ireland and Britain. I joined the union in July 1974, becoming a member of the London Radio Branch when I worked in the BBC Radio Newsroom at Broadcasting House as a News Trainee. I later joined the Birmingham Branch when I moved to the West Midlands in 1975. I then joined Dublin Broadcasting Branch on taking up a position with RTÉ News in Dublin in January 1979. I transferred to Belfast in August 1984, becoming a member of Northern Ireland Broadcasting Branch, subsequently amalgamated with Belfast and District.

NUJ life member Michael Fisher with former RTÉ News cameraman Bryan Drysdale  Photo:  © Kevin Cooper

NUJ life member Michael Fisher with former RTÉ News cameraman Bryan Drysdale Photo: © Kevin Cooper

I remember the Broadcasting Branch Treasurer at the time was Austin Hunter of BBC Northern Ireland. He has also been awarded life membership (44 years a member), along with two of his former BBC colleagues, David Lynas and Noel McCartney. Noel who received his certificate two years ago and had served on the union’s National Executive Council, was congratulated on the achievement by Gerry Curran.

NUJLOGOA fifth life membership goes to photographer Alan Lewis, a familiar figure in Belfast media circles. He joined the NUJ 42 years ago. He received his certificate from the President of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, another NUJ stalwart.

GLOBAL DANGERS TO JOURNALISTS

NUJ Belfast & District Branch Chair Bob Miller opens the seminar  Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ Belfast & District Branch Chair Bob Miller opens the seminar Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ Belfast and District Branch held a seminar at the Linenhall Library Belfast on global dangers to journalists. The President of the International Federation of Journalists Jim Boumelha was among the speakers. Local photographer and NUJ member of honour Kevin Cooper spoke about dangers for journalists in Northern Ireland. Another branch member photographer Sarah Hunter spoke about her experiences in Somalia and introduced a Somali journalist and asylum seeker. Ciaran Ó Maolain also addressed the gathering. Afterwards I introduced a round table discussion with the speakers about human rights issues of concern to journalists.

NUJ Photographer Kevin Cooper addresses seminar  Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ Photographer Kevin Cooper addresses seminar Photo: © Michael Fisher

Stressing the importance of the union’s Code of Conduct Kevin Cooper said his guidelines were to be true to yourself and be prepared to stand up on issues of concern. He said journalists had a right to do their work unhindered. Despite the peace process, some journalists in Northern Ireland were working under threat, he said.

Photographer Sarah Hunter, another member of the Belfast and District Branch, spoke about the dangers to journalists in Somalia, where she has done work for various NGOs.

Photographer Sarah Hunter addresses seminar Photo: © Michael Fisher

Photographer Sarah Hunter addresses seminar Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ciaran Ó Maolain speaking at the NUJ seminar  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ciaran Ó Maolain speaking at the NUJ seminar Photo: © Michael Fisher

IFJ President Jim Boumelha Photo: © Michael Fisher

IFJ President Jim Boumelha Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ IRELAND BDC

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran addresses the BDC  Photo: © Michael Fisher

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran addresses the BDC Photo: © Michael Fisher

Conferences for the NUJ in Ireland are held every two years. The wider union is also moving to a two-year cycle for the Delegate Meeting, which had already been shifted to an eighteen months interval in order to save money. The next DM will be held in Eastbourne in April and motions for it need to be submitted to our branch meeting by midday on Friday week (22nd November). Please contact Branch Secretary Gerry Carson.

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet with ICTU President John Douglas and Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley  Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet with ICTU President John Douglas and Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley Photo: © Michael Fisher

On Saturday, ICTU President John Douglas addressed the NUJ in Ireland biennial delegate conference, which was held once again in the Cusack stand conference centre at the GAA headquarters at Croke Park. Another meeting was being held on the same level in a different section further along the corridor and above the GAA Museum on the ground floor.

Michael Cusack statue & stand, Croke Park  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael Cusack statue & stand, Croke Park Photo: © Michael Fisher

From our vantage point we could see that repair work was continuing on the pitch to protect it during the winter. In the Hogan stand, groups were being taken on tours of the impressive stadium.

Croke Park pitch  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Croke Park pitch Photo: © Michael Fisher

The NUJ website contains some details of the proceedings. Good to see that the government has withdrawn amendments relating to the Freedom of Information legislation that would have introduced new charges.

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet addressing the BDC  Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet addressing the BDC Photo: © Michael Fisher

The union called for immediate publication of Irish government proposals for legislation guaranteeing workers the right to collective representation and bargaining. The NUJ also called for the appointment of a Minister for labour affairs of cabinet rank in order to give greater priority to the rights of workers.

In his report to the conference, Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, said the official commemoration of the 1913 Lock Out will be remembered as “a hypocritical charade”, if the government commitment to publish legislation on collective bargaining is not honoured by the end of this year. He said the inadequate protection for workers and the absence of the legal right to collective representation is a scandal which cannot be ignored. The NUJ and SIPTU, through the ICTU, are preparing a complaint to the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation on the denial of the right to representation.

ICTU President Gerry Douglas addresses NUJ BDC Photo: © Michael Fisher

ICTU President John Douglas addresses NUJ BDC Photo: © Michael Fisher

The report highlights the failure of successive governments to honour commitments to bring about legislative change to protect freelance workers. In the report, Séamus Dooley says:

“We consider the failure to implement the solemn commitments regarding the right of freelance workers to collective representation through amendment of Competition Law as a betrayal. It is ironic that the state should celebrate the contribution of Larkin, who organised self-employed workers, but force unions to seek relief through the ILO after more than a decade of broken promises,”

The last national agreement, Towards 2016, contains a specific commitment to reform of competition law which still has not been honoured. The union is also calling for the establishment of a minister for labour affairs of cabinet rank as a means of ensuring that employment rights are given greater priority, a call first made by the NUJ in 2007.

The NUJ conference also passed two motions dealing with the ‘JobBridge’ programme. In his report, Séamus Dooley called on the government to abandon the scheme. He said there was clear evidence that JobBridge was being used by a range of media organisations as a source of free labour.

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran received a gift of a framed cartoon. Pictured with Michelle Stanistreet  Photo: © Michael Fisher

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran received a gift of a framed cartoon. Pictured with Michelle Stanistreet Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ DUBLIN LIFE MEMBERS

Five of the ten new NUJ life members in Dublin  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Five of the ten new NUJ life members in Dublin Photo: © Michael Fisher

NUJ President Barry McCall from Dublin was the guest of honour at the presentation of life memberships to ten members of the National Union of Journalists, most of them working in the Dublin area. The ceremony was held on Friday evening at Liberty Hall, as a prelude to the Biennial Delegate Conference of the Irish section of the NUJ. NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet came to congratulate the ten, who between them have over 400 years’ membership of the union.

Jim Eadie, Ray Managh, Michelle Stanistreet and Michael Fisher (Belfast & District Branch, NUJ)

Jim Eadie, Ray Managh, Michelle Stanistreet and Michael Fisher (Belfast & District Branch, NUJ)

Husband and wife team Clodagh Sheehy and Liam Kelly from the Irish Independent group were among the recipients. Des Ekin of the Sunday World, who joined the NUJ as a cub reporter in the Newtownards Chronicle before moving to the Sunday News also received the award. Another Northerner Ray Managh who has worked for many years as a freelance courts correspondent in Dublin was presented with his certificate. He began his career in the Tyrone Constitution in Omagh and his proposer for NUJ membership was Ivan McMichael. He sent warm regards to a former colleague and PA Ireland Editor Deric Henderson, celebrating forty years as a journalist in Belfast.

Ray Managh  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ray Managh Photo: © Michael Fisher

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran (who has been re-elected to the post) thanked each of the members for their contribution to the NUJ.

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran presents Ray Managh with his life membership award Photo: © Michael Fisher

IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran presents Ray Managh with his life membership award             Photo: © Michael Fisher

The other recipients were Paul Barry, former deputy Sports Editor of the Irish Times, whose father, a photographer, had proposed him for NUJ membership; Michael Lavery, formerly of the Roscommon Herald and later with the Evening Herald; Con Power and Albert Smith (Independent Newspapers); Gerry Smyth, a poet, who worked for The Irish Times (I know from my mother that the Smyths are particular about the spelling of their surname!!); and Jim Smith (correct!), former Editor of the Dundalk Argus.

MARTIN O’HAGAN CASE

Martin O'Hagan at Belfast May Day March: Photo © Kevin Cooper

Martin O’Hagan at a Belfast May Day March: Photo © Kevin Cooper

The National Union of Journalists has given a guarded welcome to the announcement that the police handling of the murder of Sunday World journalist and Belfast and District Branch member Martin O’Hagan is to be reviewed by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman. The union says the circumstances, which have led to the review, are “deeply disturbing” and highlight major defects in the original investigation and are cause for public concern.

Martin O’Hagan, a leading NUJ activist, was murdered in 2OO1. No one has been convicted of the murder. The Public Prosecution Service announced that it is not in a position to review the prison sentence handed down to so-called supergrass Neil Hyde. He had received a lenient prison sentence in return for co-operation with the RUC/PSNI investigation into the murder of the former Secretary of the NUJ Belfast and District Branch.  nujlogo_burgundy

NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said:-

The announcement that the Director of Public Prosecutions has referred the investigation to the Police Ombudsman is a depressing reminder of the failure of the police to investigate properly and impartially the murder of Martin O’Hagan. A deal was done with Neil Hyde and he received a three years prison sentence in February 2012 for a range of offences. The judge made it clear that he would have received an 18 years sentence if he had not agreed to identify those involved. It subsequently emerged that his uncorroborated evidence was not sufficient to secure the conviction of suspects. The PPS now says there is no basis to refer Hyde’s sentence back to the court. The 75 per cent reduction in his sentence for his co-operation under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005) will not be reversed and we are still waiting for justice. The director of the PPS is referring the investigation under section 55 of the Police (NI) Act 1998. We would give this development a guarded welcome but do not believe the Ombudsman is capable of delivering the justice which Martin, his family, his co-workers and his union colleagues have been demanding since his brutal murder.” PPSNI

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed that it is no longer in a position to ask the court to review the sentence it imposed on Neil Hyde for his involvement in the murder of Martin O’Hagan and other offences. In a statement (Wednesday 25th September 2013) it said that based on the initial evidence, the specified prosecutor in this case had concluded that the assisting offender had knowingly breached his agreement under section 73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and that it was in the interest of justice that the case should be referred back to the original sentencing court.

However, following further examination of the evidence previously made available by police, extensive police enquiries and PPS consultation with the relevant witness, it is considered that the evidence which is now available is not sufficient to establish a breach of the agreement by Neil Hyde to the requisite standard. Accordingly there is no longer a basis to refer the matter to the court.

The court has therefore been informed that the PPS no longer seeks the review of the sentence. The Director (of Public Prosecutions) now intends to exercise his power under section 55 (4A) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman for investigation.

This story was covered in various media outlets, including RTÉ News, BBC News Northern Ireland, UTV News, by Gerry Moriarty in The Irish Times, Lurgan Mail by Carmel Robinson, News Letter, Belfast Telegraph and by Roy Greenslade in his blog in The Guardian.

DEFENCE NOT DEFIANCE

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

This was an important occasion for trade unionists in Belfast. The unveiling by the ICTU President John Douglas of a new mural complementing the statue of Jim Larkin at the ICTU (NI) office at Donegall Street Place. The Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir attended the ceremony. The work was commissioned from well-known Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine. It depicts banners, signs and logos of the constituent unions, including the National Union of Journalists.

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O'Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O’Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

I represented the NUJ at the unveiling in my capacity as Chair of the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Irish Executive Council. The artwork tells the story of organised labour from the Dockers’ and Carters’ Strike of 1907 and the struggle of women in the factories and mills, up to the current campaigns against austerity and for social justice.

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: ©  Michael Fisher

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: © Michael Fisher

Afterwards the proceedings moved to the nearby John Hewitt Bar. The Lord Mayor unveiled an item of particular significance for the Belfast Trades Council. It is a bell and commemorative plaque which were presented to Samuel Munro in 1893 when he was President of the Council.

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

The same year the former Northern Whig employee who came from Lurgan in County Armagh and represented the Typographical Association was elected as President of the Trades Union Congress then encompassing Ireland and Britain. On September 4th to 9th 1893 the TUC held their 26th annual Congress over six days at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. At the time there were 380 delegates from 226 unions, representing 900,000 members.

The Chair of NIC-ICTU Pamela Dooley gave a short speech followed by remarks from Paddy Mackel, Secretary of the present Belfast Trades Council which Munro had led. The story of this committed trade unionist who rose through the ranks and held the top post in the TUC was related splendidly by Francis Devine of the Irish Labour History Society, who finished with a poem he wrote himself in honour of Munro. He explained how Munro came from the old craft section of the trade union movement and was conservative and cautious by character. “Defence not defiance” was his way of operating.

Munro’s address to the TUC on the second day of Congress (September 5th 1893) was illuminating, according to Devine, and demonstrated radical foresight, with demands that were very advanced for their time for the organisation of women, factory reform and protective legislation, labour representation and temperance.

Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

It was a shade ironic therefore that the memento of Munro should now be displayed in a pub! Brian Bingham from Belfast was present, a friend of Munro’s last known relative, his granddaughter, who lives in London and who presented the bell to the ICTU.