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'I got £500, a week's wage, for the murder of my father ... mum couldn't afford to keep the farm'

By Brett Campbell

The son of one of three Co Fermanagh brothers who were systematically hunted down and murdered by the IRA in the 1980s has branded the compensation he and his mother received as "laughable" and urged the Government to act.

Father-of-one Darren Graham (36), who comes from Lisnaskea, was only five weeks old when his father, Cecil, was shot dead.

Darren had been born prematurely and his maternal grandparents were helping his mother, Mary, to look after him. It was his father who suggested that his wife stay with them in the nationalist area of Donagh.

The part-time UDR soldier was spotted entering the property where his Catholic wife and newborn son were staying, and was shot 16 times as soon as he stepped outside in the early hours of November 10, 1981.

Cecil (32) died in hospital the day after the horrific attack and five months after the IRA had murdered his brother, Ronnie (39), while he delivered coal not far from his Lisnaskea home.

"My mum got £5,000 and I got £500," says Darren. "If the purpose of the compensation is to help people in life, then what good is that?

"It is laughable compared to what is being awarded now - I received a week's wage for the loss of my father."

Darren was speaking after TUV leader Jim Allister said he has written to the Prime Minister regarding the disparity in compensation awards for the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

It comes after the 80-year-old widow of a man shot dead by a soldier on Bloody Sunday was awarded £625,000 in damages at the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Allister told Theresa May the settlement had "stirred understandable questions" among families of policemen and others murdered by terrorists at around the same time.

Darren described the emotional and financial impact of his father's death as "devastating" for the entire family, including his late grandfather, who regularly suffered flashbacks of the traumatic scene he stumbled upon when he rushed outside to help.

In 1983, Cecil's father-in-law told an inquest he was upset that "none of the neighbours had extended sympathy, or even mentioned the murder of his son-in-law" in the two years since the killing. But it was Cecil's widow who suffered most.

"My parents had just moved into a newly built farmhouse in Maguiresbridge, which had a beautiful farm," says Darren. "After dad was killed, mum had to sell up because she couldn't afford to keep it - the impact on her was significant.

"It was one month before the Government doubled the compensation payment, so mum lost out on another £5,000. "She had to become the breadwinner and bring me up for 18 years. After selling her farm, she moved into a council estate."

Three years after Cecil and Ronnie were murdered, the IRA came after a third brother, James "Jimmy" Graham (39).

An attempt had been made on his life in 1980, but he managed to fight off his would-be assassins and later received a medal.

But they returned on February 1, 1984 and fired a total of 26 bullets into his body as he arrived in the school bus he drove to collect children from a Derrylin primary school and take them to the local swimming pool.

The cold-blooded killers then fired more shots into the air as they escaped in a van. The three murders were widely interpreted locally as "ethnic cleansing". Ronnie's widow and two children, and Jimmy's widow and two children, were awarded the same amount of compensation.

While Darren said that no amount of money could ever bring his father back, he urged the Government to acknowledge disparity of compensation as inherently unjust.

"I want the Government to look at this and acknowledge that my dad was out doing his job, protecting the state, and never made it home," he says. "It's a joke - my mum had to bring me up without a father because of what happened."

The passionate GAA man and former Lisnaskea Emmetts player insisted his opinion is not politically motivated and said he has good relationships with people from both sides of the community.

"I don't begrudge anyone for receiving compensation - there were things which happened on both sides during the Troubles and they were wrong. That must be acknowledged.

"This is about fairness, not politics. My dad wasn't there for my first football match, he never got to cheer me on, or had a chance to be my role model.

"It had a profound impact on me and my mum. She has always believed that the children affected by the conflict have never been given adequate support."

Belfast Telegraph

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