Northern Ireland

Hooded Man Joe Clarke faced quest for justice and illness 'head on'

A large crowd attended Joe Clarke's funeral in Belfast on Thursday
A large crowd attended Joe Clarke's funeral in Belfast on Thursday

Hooded man Joe Clarke faced his long quest for justice and illness "head on", mourners at his funeral have been told.

A father-of-five, Mr Clarke (71) died on Monday after a short illness.

Days earlier, he received a death-bed apology from the PSNI over the treatment he received more than half a century ago.

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Originally from west Belfast, he was one of 14 Catholic men who say they were subjected to state-sanctioned torture when they were interned in 1971.

Held without charge, none of the men were convicted of any wrongdoing.

While detained, the techniques used against them included being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In some cases the men were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet from the ground.

In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the methods used "would be characterised today" as torture.

Mr Clarke , who won £10 million on the lottery in 2013, gave a detailed account of his treatment when a documentary about the experience of the Hooded Men was broadcast earlier this year.

Hundreds of people, including surviving members of the Hooded Men group attended his funeral in west Belfast on Thursday.

His coffin, which was draped in the national flag, was flanked by a guard of honour as it made its way to Milltown Cemetery.

A piper leads the cortege at Joe Clarke's funeral
A piper leads the cortege at Joe Clarke's funeral

A piper led the cortege and at one point men wearing white shirts, black ties and berets carried Mr Clarke's coffin.

A graveside oration was delivered by his close friend Jim McIlmurray, who along with solicitor Darragh Mackin, brought Mr Clarke his apology last week.

Mourners were told how Mr Clarke organised his own funeral in the weeks before he passed away.

They heard how in his youth he had "the makings" of a professional driver.

"Any of you unfortunate enough to have ever sat in the passenger seat of one of Joe’s Ferraris would understand that," Mr McIlmurray said.

"My own memories of going for a drive with Joe was checking the seatbelt, and then saying three or four decades of the rosary."

Mr McIlmurray also acknowledged Mr Clarke's charity work.

"One thing Joe was immensely proud of was the work he and ( his wife) Marie were involved in with the charity the Children of Chernobyl," he said.

"Joe visited Belarus and ran charitable events to raise money to bring children affected by the disaster to Belfast which he did.

"Today the lives of so many young adults have been improved thanks to this work, what a legacy to leave behind."

Hooded Man Joe Clarke
Hooded Man Joe Clarke

Mr McIlmurray said that Mr Clarke was proud to be a "committed Irish republican" and that it was always his "aspiration to see Irish unity, an inclusive Ireland for everyone".

He told how his friend dealt bravely with the challenges he faced.

"Joe fought his illness in the same manner as he fought the legal case, head-on, direct, and without complaining," he said.

"With Joe’s financial status in life, he could have just walked away from this case, but he didn’t, he was there with us all through those frustrating dark days and the few successful ones."

Mr McIlmurray said that Mr Clarke wanted the police to recognise what had been inflicted on him and others.

"Joe wanted an apology, and many of us remember that meeting last October in which I devised a plan to go hard at the government using the United Nations Convention on Torture and for their aspirational involvement in the ICC, International Criminal Investigations Unit against the Russian Federation, for actions in Ukraine.

"Joe said no, I want it from the chief constable first," he said.

And Mr McIlmurray told how the Hooded Man pushed to get a result.

"It is often said that we die twice in life, the second time when people stop talking about us," he added.

"Well, be that the case Joe Clarke will be around for a long time yet."

Surviving members of the Hooded Men formed a final guard of honour as Mr Clarke's remains were lowered into the grave.