For all their ‘sorrow’ over the killing of my brother Edgar Graham, Sinn Fein will not condemn it as murder

A letter from Anne Graham:

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 8:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 10:16 am
Edgar Graham, the barrister, Ulster Unionist MLA and academic who was shot dead by the IRA at Queen’s University in December 1983. Sinn Fein politicians have repeatedly been asked if they condemn the murder but none has done so

Remarks by Mary Lou McDonald have been interpreted as an apology for the murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten.

I remember very well the day of that murder.

My parents and I had arrived from Northern Ireland at Trinity College Oxford to meet my brother there. Clearly shocked, he told us the dreadful news.

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Four years later in December 1983 we were hearing the dreadful news that my brother Edgar Graham, by then a unionist politician and law lecturer at Queen’s Belfast, had likewise been murdered by the Provisional IRA – a murder justified by republicans (and never repudiated by Gerry Adams or Sinn Fein) as “a lesson to those who stand foursquare behind the laws ...”

In politics in Northern Ireland it is often not what you say that is critical but what you do not say.

I have repeatedly asked Sinn Féin to condemn my brother’s murder (see links below).

Peter Doran, also lecturing in the Queen’s Law Faculty, stood for Sinn Féin in 2017 and in an interview in terms very similar to those chosen by Ms McDonald expressed his “profound sorrow” over the “tragic choices” my brother made; apparently choosing to be a democratic politician in opposition to paramilitary violence from any source is to render oneself open to assassination by those selfsame paramilitaries.

Despite repeated requests from myself and others he refused to condemn the murder or even hint at condemnation.

References to the dignity of our family rang hollow.

Mairtín O’Mulleoir won a seat for Sinn Féin in the assembly for the South Belfast constituency in which my brother served – he was also unable to condemn the murder and that of Robert Bradford MP in South Belfast in 1981.

I have met him several times and he has said he is very sorry but still no condemnation of murder.

At a public meeting at Queen’s University, literally yards from the scene of my brother’s murder, I further pressed Michelle O’Neill, leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, to condemn the execution given that her address was about rights and equality; again regret was expressed but no admission that murder of a political opponent was wrong.

Like Mairtín, Michelle in person was very polite and respectful of me.

This makes me wonder — what are the people they represent like?

Are they like the ones in the Students Union who cheered the murder?

Then in February 2019 Mary Lou McDonald herself spoke at Queens. I was unwell or I would have been there too. Ms McDonald was perhaps expecting a challenge and did refer to “the killing the IRA” (not murder, nor assassination nor execution – remember words are important) of Edgar Graham at Queen’s. There was no condemnation.

I come then to the Finucane family.

Every time I have spoken or written I have without reservation condemned the murder of Pat Finucane.

Every time John Finucane, now a Westminster MP has been asked to condemn the murder of my brother a fellow politician and lawyer he has evaded the question with expressions of regret for all murders or complains that it is unfair to question him.

David Cameron may be in the dog house now but he had the grace to give a full apology in respect of Bloody Sunday — “It was wrong”.

There has been and is no equivalent condemnation forthcoming from Sinn Féin; indeed Mary Lou Mc Donald immediately proceeded to caveat her words with references to the actions of the army in Northern Ireland.

Statistics show of course that Republican paramilitaries were responsible for some 60% of deaths, security forces 10%.

Clearly this latest statement from Sinn Féin is the outworking of a long term strategy to create an illusion of apology. The continued ambiguity is evidently intentional.

There is no new tone as I have demonstrated above. Why?

Experienced observers of politics in NI and elsewhere are not fooled but perhaps this latest effort is meant for the electorate in the Republic of Ireland and for the UK public to suggest that SF has new clothes.

I remain to be convinced that SF has truly stepped away from its bloody past.

In Northern Ireland peace comes dropping slow.

Anne Graham, Belfast

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