New Tribute Remembers QUB Lecturer Edgar Graham

Peter Donnelly, The Gown Editor

Queen’s University students and Troubles victims and survivors group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) have joined together to create a new tribute video to law lecturer, Edgar Graham, who was murdered outside Queen’s in 1983.

December 7th, will mark 37 years since the murder of Queen’s University law lecturer and Ulster Unionist Party politician, Edgar Graham BL.

It was on a crisp winter’s morning that Edgar Graham was gunned down by a Provisional IRA gunman outside, what was then, the Queen’s library on University Square, while talking to UUP colleague Dermot Nesbitt. It came as a profound shock to his family, friends and colleagues that such a heinous act should be committed outside the 29-year-old’s place of work.

Called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1979 and always having had a keen interest in politics, his charisma marked him out as future leadership material in the UUP, at a time when Northern Ireland was ravaged by sectarian violence.

A proficient lawyer and burgeoning academic, lecturing in constitutional law at Queen’s, he had many professional commitments, working towards a doctorate in law at the University of Oxford, which he sadly never completed. The year prior to his death he had also been elected UUP member for South Belfast to the short-lived Northern Ireland Assembly.

Now almost four decades on Queen’s students and the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), led by Kenny Donaldson, have joined together to launch a twenty-minute tribute video remembering Mr. Graham’s life. On Monday, December 7th, at 11am the short video will be released on SEFF’s Victims and Survivors Facebook page.

Calvin Reid who coordinated the initiative, emphasised that Edgar Graham should serve as a role model to all students,

“We never had the pleasure of meeting Edgar, but Edgar Graham for many of us is a great role model from whom we can learn much.  Edgar was a man who achieved much in his short life and truly fulfilled his potential. He also stuck unflinchingly to his principles, we can think of his support for the super grass trials of both Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries are despite being under threat he stood by his beliefs. Surely these are principles which we could all learn from.”

Calvin Reid

In 2016, following the opening of the new Law School at Queen’s, a conference room was christened ‘The Edgar Graham Room.’ Yet, the lack of a permanent memorial, acknowledging the callous circumstances surrounding Mr. Graham’s death concerned students who approached SEFF.

Kenny Donaldson explained,

“There were discussions being had concerning the failure to recognise Edgar fittingly within the parameters of the University and we connected with a number of students who had felt similarly and who were convicted to do something in having at least an annual event to honour Edgar’s legacy.”

Kenny Donaldson

To mark the 35th Anniversary of Mr. Graham’s death SEFF presented his sister, Ann Graham, with a memorial plaque which included images representing his interests and passions including politics, law and classical music, underscored with the poignantly fitting words, ‘Keeping alive the light of Justice.’

Keeping Alive A Legacy: Quilt ‘Patchwork of Innocents’ presented to Ms. Ann Graham, sister of Edgar Graham, in 2018. Kenny Donaldson/SEFF

Ann Graham, is one of thousands of innocent Troubles victims who tirelessly campaigns to keep alive the light of justice.

Outstanding Legacies

The fact that no one has been charged or brought to justice over Edgar Graham’s murder is a stark reminder of that there is much to be resolved in the legacy of The Troubles. 

The Troubles’ legacy and the clash of narratives continues to be a significant burden on the path to political and social progress in Northern Ireland, some twenty-two years on from The Good Friday Agreement. Legacy is an issue of contention which is in dire need of progress and a palatable solution for all innocent victims, following a series of failed and abandoned initiatives.

Victims and survivors’ groups such as SEFF have stepped into the fold to provide for the needs of those who feel they have been abandoned by political leaders, during the years of the peace process. Mr. Donaldson underlines that the failure to reach a political consensus on legacy is the fact that the root causes of The Troubles have not been adequately addressed,

“For a quarter of a century, there has been appeasement and empowerment of terrorists and their political annexes, the focus must now be upon the innocent victims/survivors of their actions. No longer should this constituency of people carry the burden on behalf of everyone else, and have to assent to further concessions to keep “Peace” in place. What we’ve had has been a phoney style of ‘Peace’ because the root causes and impacts of the violence have not been owned.

First this must happen before any sprint to establish even more toothless legacy structures which will raise expectations of victims/survivors and will ultimately fail to deliver real outcomes.”

Kenny Donaldson

It is hoped that this tribute will strengthen Edgar Graham’s legacy and perhaps encourage efforts to have a lasting memorial in his honour at Queen’s University.

The video can be viewed at the following link –

As Editor I wish to extend my thanks to Kenny Donaldson, Nathan Fairley and Calvin Reid for providing information on this event.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s