Belfast Telegraph

My profound sorrow over IRA murder of Edgar Graham: SF candidate Peter Doran

EXCLUSIVE

by Noel McAdam

A Sinn Fein election candidate has spoken of his "profound sorrow" over the IRA murder of Queen's University law lecturer Edgar Graham.

Peter Doran, a Queen's University lecturer now based in the same department that Mr Graham once worked in, also said he deeply regretted all Troubles' killings.

Mr Doran was also the Green Party's standard-bearer in Upper Bann in 1990. Two years later, the Upper Bann Sinn Fein candidate in the election, Sheena Campbell, was shot dead by a lone loyalist in Belfast's Botanic Avenue.

Asked for his view on the 1983 killing of 29-year-old Mr Graham, Mr Doran said: "Anything a party candidate can say is never adequate. The first thing you think of is the dignity of the family. The conflict invaded the lives of many people. The tragedy of the conflict and all the tragic choices that people made at that time including the life and the family of Edgar Graham, that is a matter of profound sorrow to me, of course."

As a former member of a monastery founded by a Protestant pastor who also spent a number of years engaged in peace and conflict studies at Ulster University, Doran is far from typical Sinn Fein stock.

In his 20s he spent three years in the renowned ecumenical monastic community of Taizé in France, founded by the Protestant pastor, Brother Roger Schutz.

And Doran was involved in Christmas acts of reconciliation at both the Catholic and Church of Ireland cathedrals in Londonderry in the Eighties and early Nineties. Now the 55-year-old is standing in Lagan Valley where Sinn Fein hopes to regain the seat it has failed to hold since the departure of Paul Butler in 2011.

"It's an area where there is a strong republican/nationalist base and even a secular side seeking a more positive platform and Sinn Fein wants to provide a real, viable choice," Mr Doran said.

He admits, though - especially with constituencies dropping from six seats to five, producing an Assembly with 90 rather than 108 members - that winning back the seat will be an uphill task.

"But you have to start somewhere," he said.

In the last two elections in 2011 and 2016, Sinn Fein ran candidates Jacqui McGeough and Mary Kate Quinn in the constituency but saw its vote share fall.

The new standard-bearer is aware he will have to stretch and win support beyond the republican core.

Already however, his election is being viewed as a possible sign that under new Northern leader Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein is a party moving apace away from its past.

But Doran felt himself increasingly drawn to SF as a natural home during 2008 when he says the party "got it right" over the "meltdown" in the Irish economy.

"They were the only party who anticipated what is now conventional wisdom that the Government should never have paid the debt of private speculators," he said.

"It is a view which has been vindicated by the International Monetary Fund, and others, since."

Doran said at the same time he was disappointed by the performance of the Green Party in the Irish coalition government of the time.

"But I have maintained my relationships and friendships with people in the Green Party and I am a huge admirer of what Steven Agnew has achieved, as the Green leader in the Assembly, over the last few years," he added.

Doran believes the Assembly will be back - but only when the DUP demonstrates its recognition of the mutual inter-dependency of the institutions.

"There is every opportunity in this election period for them to signal that they have learned the lesson that the old ways and the old language doesn't work.

"The way they have acted disrespects not only nationalists and republicans but those who do not identify with either of the major communities," he said.

"Arlene Foster in particular will have to prove she is prepared to recognise the true nature of the institutions and is prepared to be inclusive."

A former journalist with the Derry Journal turned academic, Doran says he always wanted to remain active in politics, yet admits much of what Sinn Fein is demanding of the DUP in the negotiations which are to follow the election are "intangibles".

But he argued: "Unionists are crying out for that kind of inclusivity."

Doran has served his time as a back room activist, contributing to policy development. "I have provided input into lots of research over the years," he said - and working with current Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir's cumann (group) in south Belfast.

"Sinn Fein is very clearly navigating new territory both north and south," he said.

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