Legacy Scandal: ‘We are sleep walking into a Province governed by apologists for terror,’ says sister of Edgar Graham

Edgar Graham, on the day he was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland, left, with his sister Anne centre and father Norman and mother Anna
Edgar Graham, on the day he was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland, left, with his sister Anne centre and father Norman and mother Anna

In an essay for our legacy series, ANNE GRAHAM says peacemaking is not just overlooking terrible things that have been done, it is challenging people such as Sinn Fein politicians who ‘regret’ her brother’s murder but will not condemn it (link below to rest of series:)

What sort of society do you want for you and your children?

News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent

News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent

After my brother, the lawyer and academic and politician Edgar Graham, was murdered by PIRA in 1983 I chose the words ‘Keep Alive the Light of Justice’ for a memorial plaque at Stormont.

It is fitting that this is often quoted in articles about him.

We never had justice.

No one has been charged with the murder. I fear this latest attempt to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past is yet another figleaf to enable the past to be buried.

The aftermath of the IRA murder of the lecturer Edgar Graham on University Square, at the edge of Queen's University in Belfast in December 1983

The aftermath of the IRA murder of the lecturer Edgar Graham on University Square, at the edge of Queen's University in Belfast in December 1983

This will not be a decent burial.

I do not expect ever to have justice given the indifferent attitudes of the police, the justice system, the state, the churches and society.

My brother was robbed of the chance to have a family, my parents robbed of their potential grandchildren. We know, however, that to IRA-Sinn Fein that was a bonus of murdering him.

Whilst my parents were still alive I got a first letter from the Historic Enquiries Team (HET). This body was supposed to let families find out about enquiries into the murders of their loved ones.

This was against a background of concessions to terrorists, such as the On the Run Letters, the two year sentences under the Belfast Agreement and, further back, the extradition arrangements in the Republic of Ireland which would have protected the murderers of my brother.

The first HET team that I was given of ex-RUC officers advised me that such was the quantity of information on file that the investigation would take three years.

I was given a second team of HET officers, one ex-RUC officer and one ex-Scottish police force officer. They advised that it would take three to four months.

I had heard nothing previously about the murder except that one possible suspect was in prison on different charges and could not be questioned.

I raised with the HET officers various allegations repeated to me over the years such as the lecturer who was believed to be associated with the IRA; the letter on prison notepaper which my brother showed me weeks prior to his murder proposing an arrangement between republican terrorists and loyalist terrorists that the former would take him out provided that there would be no retaliation from the loyalists.

The background for this was that he had been so vigilant in defending respectively the use of ‘supergrass’ evidence in trials, administrative separation of prisoners in the wake of the hunger strikes, and extradition of suspects from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland to stand trial, that the terrorists on both sides hated him. My brother told me he was passing this to the police.

The HET officers looked at each other. It was not a look to inspire confidence.

A story was run on the front page of a Sunday newspaper that MI5 had arranged the assassination because Edgar was pursuing an investigation into their activities.

I have read that the same team that murdered my brother carried out the attack on Tom Travers RM in which Mary Travers was murdered.

Finally I asked about the opinion that Edgar was murdered on the orders of PIRA leaders because he represented an acceptable face of unionism for moderate Catholics who were starting to assimilate in the British state institutions after years of discrimination and abstentions.

Edgar was far ahead of the unionist party of his time. He supported devolution. It was as a human rights lawyer that he said in the assembly:

[Unionists are] prepared to envisage a Bill of Rights to protect minority rights if they [minorities] felt they were being violated in any way; an independent judicial tribunal to deal with any complaints of violations of human rights. We are prepared to go some way … towards accommodating some of the claims made by the minority, and our points here have never been one of trying to establish a Protestant ascendancy in the province.

I asked the HET officers if their inquiries would investigate who gave the orders to assassinate my brother.

Oh no, they said, they wouldn’t be doing anything like that.

Anyway the HET was suspended. In 2014 I received a letter telling me that HET was closed, they had completed their investigation and it had not yielded any new evidence or investigative opportunities. No report would be produced. That would be the work of the legacy branch.

I am not clear on whether under the new proposals I will get a report or have a chance to have questions answered; or indeed whether I have to appeal to have this.

These are the sorts of issues that families have to deal with. So where does that leave justice in Northern Ireland?

I was brought up on Christian values. In our house it was more ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’, like ‘Repay no one evil for evil’, Romans 12v17.

There was never any question of retaliation for the murder. Frankly we were too broken to even be able to think of that.

I live in south Belfast. Many people there, particularly in the churches, seem to think politics is beneath them. Forget about this legacy issue, I have been told in churches, just forget the lies on Twitter. Don’t talk about it. I get more support in west Belfast than south Belfast. People who have suffered don’t want to see others suffer.

I am involved in various organisations and I am often meeting people outside Belfast. People talk to me once they know about my brother.

They see the extent to which society here is being subverted. People are sleep walking into a Province governed by apologists for terror and murder.

These legacy proposals mean the terrorists and law breakers will get away with their murder and anyone who wore a uniform or operated in a state organisation can expect to be called to account.

I think though of Bertolt Brecht’s words:

The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. ...all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics.

Everyone in NI needs to take responsibility for the world in which we live, making it a fair, just state for everyone. They can begin by responding to the legacy proposals.

Do I not have a right to know there was a proper investigation into my brother’s murder?

Remember too that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ Matt 5:9, not just peace lovers.

Peacemaking is not just overlooking terrible things that have been done. It is challenging people, such as Sinn Fein politicians who regret my brother’s murder but will not condemn it (see below, from last year).

Peacemakers pay the price for others to enjoy the benefits. Jesus was in the world. He threw the money changers out of the temple.

Those who continue to justify murder as legitimate and a matter of celebration should be expelled from the public forum.

For other essays in our legacy series, click here

2017: SF academic should say if it was wrong to shoot my brother (see within that story other links to the controversy)