IRA victim Edgar Graham remembered

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THE man left covered in the blood of murdered Queen's University law lecturer and UUP Assembly member Edgar Graham still remembers the moment his friend was shot "vividly, like it was yesterday".

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow - December 7 - the 29-year-old barrister was shot dead by two IRA gunmen.

Former Stormont Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt, then an accountancy lecturer at Queen's and UUP councillor, was standing talking to Mr Graham about politics outside the university as students mulled past.

It is understood the IRA gunmen used information gleaned from a university timetable to pinpoint Mr Graham's movements ahead of his murder.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murder, but two former students were later given suspended sentences for withholding information.

Mr Nesbitt, who has returned to being a Queen's academic, said: "I remember it vividly and I can see him now. I don't talk about it very often. Edgar and I were the only two members of staff who were elected as unionist representatives. That day Edgar crossed to my side of the street to talk and he was telling me he was going to see the chairman of the NI committee the next day. Then he was shot from behind. I was covered in his blood."

Mr Nesbitt said he remembers the image of people looking down out of their windows on Queen's campus at the murder scene.

"They were like matchstick men all standing at the windows," he said.

Former UUP leader Lord Molyneaux said a promising future lay ahead for the academic and lawyer.

He said: "Had Mr Graham not been murdered he would have become the leader of our party, such was his calibre."

A plaque to the memory of Mr Graham now sits at the entrance of the debating hall at Stormont.

It reads: "Keep alive the light of justice."

DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr, who knew Edgar Graham through visits to Stormont with his father, said Mr Graham was carrying a personal protection firearm when he died.

"He carried a personal protection weapon and anyone who is given one is taught how to use it," he said. "The only reason he was given a weapon was because he knew there was an active and specific threat on his life."

Three weeks prior to his death, Mr Graham had told the Northern Ireland Assembly he had information that the IRA had asked loyalist paramilitaries to help them kill a leading Ulster Unionist - he is believed to have been referring to himself.

Mr Paisley said: "If anything has come out of his death it is that today Northern Ireland is a different place because of people like him.

"When I am giving tours of Stormont I always stop at the plaque to Edgar Graham. On one occasion this woman put her hand on my arm and said to me she was his mother. It just shows you how close it still is.”

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister MEP said he knew Mr Graham well from his student days in the law faculty at Queen’s, “where our under-graduate years overlapped, and later when we both served in the 1982 Assembly, I still vividly recall the shock, sorrow and anger which I felt over his brutal murder.

“To think that the ultimate reward for the party of those who murdered him, and hundreds more of our best citizens, is to rule over us, adds to my revulsion.”

Last night, the school of law at Queen’s held a lecture by Professor John McEldowney from the school of law, University of Warwick in his memory.

Head of the Queen’s school of law, Professor Colin Harvey, said: “As well as being a first-rate academic and barrister, Edgar was also a skilful and talented politician, rightly viewed as someone with a promising political future in the Ulster Unionist Party.

“He courageously put his legal and political skills to work in the fierce, fraught and dangerous political arena of Northern Ireland at that time.”