Sunday Times Northern Ireland editor Liam Clarke is taking redundancy this week after 16 years at the paper, spelling the end of an era for UK national newspaper coverage of the area.
The move has been partly prompted by the end of the 30-year Troubles in Northern Ireland. Last month, the British army ended its mission in Northern Ireland when it declared the end of Operation Banner.
Clarke, 53, has taken voluntary redundancy as part of a round of staff cuts by News International, and he will not be replaced. In June, the company announced it would offer “less than 100” editorial staff across its four national newspapers voluntary redundancy packages.
In an email to Sunday Times staff, Clarke said: “This note is to let you know that, barring any last-minute hitches, I leave The Sunday Times on 1 September to work on my own.
“The post of Northern Ireland editor is being made redundant due to the changing news agenda and, if things go according to plan, I will leave on mutually agreed terms this Saturday.
“It’s been great working at the paper all these years. It was an interesting and rewarding job, where I made many friends. I had some great colleagues, from whom I learnt a lot.”
Sunday Times managing editor Richard Caseby called Clarke a “good guy”.
He said: “Liam is a brave and resourceful reporter who produced many scoops during the darkest days of Northern Ireland. He has written unflinchingly on terror groups, often at great personal risk.
“His investigations and challenges under the Official Secrets Act have also been fearless. Liam is embarking on a freelance career, but we hope he will still make contributions to The Sunday Times. I wish him every success in the future.”
Caseby said the paper would now rely on freelances for Northern Ireland coverage, but said the paper was not scaling back its foreign bureaux across the world. He said: “We will not have a staff position in Northern Ireland any more, but this is specific to Northern Ireland. The need for a Northern Ireland editor has faded somewhat in recent times.”
Clarke joined the paper in October 1991 as Ireland correspondent, becoming deputy Ireland editor and then Northern Ireland editor in 2003.
In April the same year, Clarke and his journalist wife Kathy Johnston were held by police and their home and offices searched as part of a leak inquiry. They sued the police and in 2006 were awarded a five-figure sum in compensation.