Liam Clarke: ‘An Atheist Buddha’

The son of a Presbyterian Minister, Liam Clarke joined the Republican Clubs while a student in the early 1970s.

Discovering that he had a talent for journalism along with Robin Wilson he became co-editor of the Workers’ Party’s northern tabloid newspaper The Northern People in 1980. The paper broke several stories on Northern Irish politics.

By the mid-1980s Liam was working for The Sunday Times, becoming a highly valued reporter on the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland. Although he had left the WP to pursue his career in journalism he stayed on good terms with many party members and maintained a commitment to its egalitarian and anti-sectarian ideals.

He would go on to be perhaps the most important journalist of his generation in Northern Ireland, writing Broadening the Battlefield in 1987 – a seminal account of the early rise of Sinn Fein as a political force. He broke many major stories on paramilitarism and politics and in his later years was one of the Northern Ireland’s most informed political commenters.

During his career he confronted both paramilitary and State power. In 2003, police officers raided the Clarke family home and arrested both Liam and his wife Kathryn over an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act. They were questioned at Castlereagh Holding Centre for almost a day.

The father of three died on 27th December. He was cremated in a Buddhist ceremony during which the attendance was informed that Liam was an “atheist Buddhist” who saw no contradiction between his Zen Buddhism and his belief that there is no God.

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