Northern Ireland

Wreath laid at Stormont to mark 40th anniversary of assassination of Edgar Graham, a one time rising star in unionist politics

Ulster Unionist politician Edgar Graham was killed by the IRA in December 1983. File picture from Pacemaker
Ulster Unionist politician Edgar Graham was killed by the IRA in December 1983. File picture from Pacemaker Ulster Unionist politician Edgar Graham was killed by the IRA in December 1983. File picture from Pacemaker

Members of the Ulster Unionist Party laid a wreath in Stormont on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of Edgar Graham.

A law lecturer and elected to the 1982 Assembly, Mr Graham was shot dead by the Provisional IRA on University Square near Queen's University on December 7 1983.

At the time, he was an elected member of the assembly for South Belfast and a 29-year-old rising star within unionism.

Edgar Graham was a law lecturer at Queen's University
Edgar Graham was a law lecturer at Queen's University Edgar Graham was a law lecturer at Queen's University

While it is still not known exactly why he was singled out for assassination by the Provisionals, two key reasons have been suggested, that he was seen as a future unionist leader and he was able to craft strong legal arguments for the use of "supergrasses" at a time when several high profile trials were taking place.  

The wreath-laying was led by Dermot Nesbitt, a long time leading Ulster Unionist and former MLA who was standing with his friend and colleague when he was shot dead in the street. 

DUP founding member Wallace Thompson said he first met Mr Graham when they were both students at Queen's in the early 1970s.

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"Edgar was an Ulsterman through and through and he was blessed with outstanding academic ability and a sharp intellect," Mr Thompson said.

"He had tremendous potential but it was all brought to a sudden and violent end on that cold December day in 1983. No one has ever been brought to account for his murder."

His cousin Brian Graham visited his grave at Duneane Presbyterian Church near Randalstown in Co Antrim.

"Working as a postman in a rural area of Antrim I was unaware of this until a few hours later when one of my customers told me what had happened," said Mr Graham.

He added: "To date and after 40 years, no one has been charged with his murder and as time moves on I and others don't forget this, and many other incidents of the Troubles whilst growing up in Northern Ireland."

Former MLA Dermot Nesbitt was close to Mr Graham when the 29-year-old was shot dead
Former MLA Dermot Nesbitt was close to Mr Graham when the 29-year-old was shot dead Former MLA Dermot Nesbitt was close to Mr Graham when the 29-year-old was shot dead

Mr Graham graduated from Queen's in 1976 before working on a PHD at the University of Oxford. He was called to the Bar in the north and joined Queen's law faculty in 1979.

A colleague of the late UUP leader and Nobel Prize winner David Trimble, Mr Graham was a one time chair of the Ulster Young Unionist Council.

He addressed the 1982 Conservative Party Conference and was also invited to speak at major gatherings globally, including the United States.