Trooper Mark McKeen

Published Tuesday, 04 March 2014
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"Furthermore, he was a sniper! How cool is that?" With those words the Commanding Officer of the Royal Dragoon Guards had everyone's attention.

He was speaking at the funeral of Trooper Mark McKeen, in Carrickfergus.

In a cruel twist, Mark McKeen had survived two tours of Afghanistan, but died in a road crash in England.

Had he died on the front line, his funeral would have been headline news. The fact that he died in an accident with a fellow soldier, barely rated any comment.

News is a funny thing, at times. So, why was I at this funeral, accompanied by UTV cameraman, John Vennard?

This time last year, we were on assignment in Afghanistan and spent some time with the Royal Dragoon Guards, a regiment with strong Irish connections.

One of its antecedent regiments was the Royal Inniskilling Dragoons, and it still recruits locally.

So, at Lashkar Gah, we were chatting with lads from Carrickfergus, Belfast, Newtownabbey and Athlone. It was a real "home from home" experience. These were front-line soldiers who were comfortable posing with the Irish Tricolour and the Ulster Flag. No divided loyalties here!

One of them was Trooper Mark McKeen. It was important to attend his funeral in Carrickfergus; to meet his family, and his "army" family.

I wanted to illustrate that interviewing him and his fellow soldiers was not just "another story."

Actually, in my career as a journalist, no report has ever been "just another story." Each one is unique.

The death of Mark McKeen would have been big news in Northern Ireland if he had died in Afghanistan. The fact that he died in a road accident, a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday is still a tragedy.

It may have passed unnoticed by the public at large, but it is no less distressing.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
sandra cooper in coleraine wrote (246 days ago):
This was a lovely tribute to Mark, everyone that had honour to meet him knew he was an awesome guy, words cannot express the sorrow over his death, Mark will never be forgotten x
Toni Campbell in Londonderry wrote (261 days ago):
I am marks mother and just to want to respond to the person that commented on this blog about my hero of a son being a sniper.I will tell you what is cool about being a son standing there and protecting the rest of his men from being killed in a war zone.and to put his own life on the line to do son was an amazing soldier and damn fine sniper and we we where all proud of that as was please don't comment on something so hurtful at this time in our life and as paul was only staying what my son's boss said at his funeral.comments like yours only show the level people will stoop too to get the limelight.thank you
Martin in Maghera wrote (309 days ago):
Paul, what is so cool about being able to blow another human being's head to smithereens from half a kilometer away?
Tracy in carrickfergus wrote (311 days ago):
Remember mark being born, lived next door to him for a while. So hard to believe what happened. Brian / Toni and the family my thoughts are with you. Great to see this tribute, well done Paul Clarke x
Holly in Newtownabbey wrote (331 days ago):
A lovely touching tribute by Paul Clark for one of our heroes, rest in peace Mark. They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
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Paul Clark
Paul Clark

Paul Clark is the esteemed anchor of UTV Live and UTV Live Tonight. Paul has had a long and varied career, starting with the Irish News before moving on to be a DJ in RTE.

After that he joined the BBC before coming to UTV in 1989. He has a penchant for military history and long journeys by train.

His motto is 'Keep on... and keep on keeping on!'

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