Belfast Telegraph

Sister challenges Sinn Fein 'hypocrites' as murdered politician is remembered

By Stewart Robson

The sister of murdered unionist politician Edgar Graham challenged the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein as she addressed a poignant ceremony to mark the 35th anniversary of his death.

Anne Graham spoke at a memorial service outside the university yesterday for her brother, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1983.

Mr Graham was a barrister and law lecturer as well as a promising politician, tipped as a future leader of the Ulster Unionist party.

Wreaths were laid at the spot where he died, across from the Queen's Film Theatre, during a service organised by students.

Unionist politicians attending the event included former First Minister Lord Trimble, UUP leader Robin Swann and DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly.

A lone piper played a lament after a minute's silence.

Speaking to the crowd, Ms Graham said the memorial was occurring on a bright day but that it was a dark day when she lost her brother.

"I heard on the 11am news headlines that a politician had been shot at Queen's," she said.

"I knew instantly it was Edgar.

"Minutes later, as I tried desperately to find out what hospital he was being taken to, it was announced that Edgar Graham had been shot dead at Queen's. The world pretty much stopped and changed for me then."

No one has ever been convicted of Mr Graham's murder.

His sister has been a vocal critic of Sinn Fein, saying that it had never condemned the killing of the barrister.

She openly challenged the party's deputy leader, Michelle O'Neill, at an event at the university in October.

In her speech yesterday, she once again touched on the subject.

"It is not enough to be a peace lover," said Ms Graham.

"I will keep on honouring my brother's memory and defending his career and character.

"I will call out the hypocrisy of others, but I will also talk to the people who refuse to recognise murder for murder.

"I will try to convince them there is a better way."

She added: "Sometimes the conversation is more important than the answer and sometimes the conversation has to be behind closed doors."

Queen's student Calvin Reid, who helped organise the service in co-operation with Ms Graham, said the death had been a "devastating blow".

Mr Reid said the purpose of the event was to "remember a man of great integrity".

He said: "As young people it is worrying for us that there are those within society who don't believe that what happened here was wrong.

"We long for a society that is shared, a Northern Ireland where different people can have a range of views and beliefs and where there is lasting peace, but that society must be built upon the principles of truth and justice."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann laid a wreath and said Mr Graham had had the potential to be a leader of the party.

"The murder of Edgar Graham in December 1983 was a huge loss to both his family and to unionism," he said.

"There is no doubt that his talent and ability had already marked him out as a future leader of the Ulster Unionist party and that Northern Ireland could have been a very different place had he been allowed to live.

"I would like to praise the Queen's students who organised what was a very thoughtful and dignified commemoration at Queen's today and my thoughts are with Edgar's family at this time."

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, who was born in the same year that the Assemblyman was murdered, paid tribute to him.

"Thirty five years later people still remember him because of the massive contribution he made to unionist politics," he said. "He stood for democracy, he stood for freedom and he stood for the rule of law and that's why he was targeted.

"It's important that we honour his life by saying that those who engage in terrorism will never prevail over those who engage in democratic politics."

Students contributed money towards a framed memorial quilt which was presented to Ms Graham at the service.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph