Tragic Fermanagh family mourns heart transplant teen

Kirsty Clarke had a groundbreaking heart transplant in 2010
Kirsty Clarke had a groundbreaking heart transplant in 2010

A Co Fermanagh family that lost three members during the Troubles is mourning the loss of a teenage girl who died seven years after undergoing a heart transplant.

Kirsty Clarke was 18-years-old when she passed away on Monday morning. She will be laid to rest after a funeral in Lisnaskea later today.

Kirsty had undergone a groundbreaking heart transplant in 2010 after a virus caused serious damage to her heart when she was in primary school.

Her family have suffered greatly over the years. Kirsty’s grandfather, Jimmy Graham, who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment, was killed by the IRA in 1985 while driving a school bus. He was one of three brothers killed by the IRA in the 1980s.

Kirsty’s mother, Sharon, is a member of the victims and survivors group, South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).

SEFF director Kenny Donaldson knew Kirsty and her family and paid tribute to the tragic teenager, who he described as an “incredible young woman”.

“Most of the family would be connected into our organisation,” he explained. “Kirsty’s grandad and her two great uncles were all murdered, three brothers. They were all off-duty, just going about everyday business. Her grandad was driving a school bus.

“In 1981 they murdered two of the brothers and three years later they murdered Kirsty’s grandfather, who had survived two assassination attempts.

“What that family have had to go through – there were two other siblings who passed away from cancer and another would have been Hilary.

“Hilary was a UDR Greenfinch soldier, one of the first ladies to join the Greenfinches, and she was run down at a checkpoint in 1979 and died a number of months later.

“It is an awful lot of tragedy for one family. The older generation had hoped that the hurt and the heartache was going to go but, two generations later there’s more heartache of a different type.

“The hard thing about it was that her grandad’s anniversary was today (Tuesday).”

Mr Donaldson said Kirsty was loved by many: “People say cross-community but we like to say the ‘full community’ and she was loved by everybody across the whole community.

“She worked in a wee shop here in Lisnaskea and she was involved in Girls Friendly Society. She was a young person who had her views about things, she was well aware of everything and she honoured her grandad’s memory, but she was a girl who really wanted a better future for everybody.

“Her parents are just in pieces. They are just humble, country people. Kirsty’s death is a terrible tragedy. She was an incredible young woman.”

Kirsty will be sadly missed by mother Sharon, father Alan and her sister, granny, aunt, uncles and wider family circle. Her funeral service will take place in Aghavea Parish Church at 2pm followed by interment in the adjoining churchyard.