Monday, September 22, 2008

(We should be) Keeping alive the light....

Mick Fealty in Iain Dale’s GUIDE TO POLITICAL BLOGGING IN THE UK 2008-9:
There is however a small coterie of blogs rising in Northern Ireland, largely on the unionist side who are interested in pushing the kind of conversational politics that has driven other more developed blogospheres. They are interested in the new business of politics, and in disseminating ideas about how their own political projects might grow and develop new narratives.

Hopefully I’m not being too presumptuous (or self-congratulatory) to assume he’s talking here about those Unionist blogs which featured in Dale's "Northern Irish Top 10" (Three Thousand Versts, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Redemption's Son, Everything Ulster and the presently hibernating, Modern Unionist Voice).

Well, are we "disseminating ideas" about how Unionism might grow, developing "new narratives"? That’s for the readers, not me, to say; we’re certainly getting out our views on a daily basis and are building a new audience (going on what my own Statcounter is telling me anyway) that’s curious to read a message which pre-internet simply didn’t reach the places it does now. The opportunity afforded to us by this whole blogging phenomenon is something we as N. Irish Unionists should be grateful for; this right to freely relate our politics and beliefs without fear is one which was denied to many before us over the three decades of the Troubles.

By coincidence, when I was thinking and collecting some background about this post, a friend told me that this year is the 25th anniversary of the murder of Edgar Graham.

Edgar Samuel David Graham was a graduate (with 1st class honours) of the University of Oxford. He became a member of the Queen's University, Belfast law faculty and was also a Chairman of the Ulster Young Unionist Council; if he had been allowed to live, in all likelihood, Graham would today have been the leader of the UUP. On the morning of 7 December 1983,he was shot in the head and murdered by Republican gangsters. No one has ever been and for reasons of political expediency will be ever charged for his murder. Now, many good people met an untimely end at the hand of terrorists during the period of the Troubles, but I believe that Graham’s life and murder in particular still has something to tell us as Unionists today.

Why was Graham, a "non-combatant" in SFIRA-speak, targeted?

To answer that you need to look deeper at the context of the situation existing at Queens University during the late 70s and early 80s. The Republican-controlled Students Union was a sectarian cesspit, where, for example, a party was held to celebrate the death of British sailors killed during the Argentinian attack on the HMS Sheffield; a place where exercising your right to free speech or even to wear a Northern Ireland shirt could be met, at the very least, with a beer-glass in your face. There was an IRA Unit operating out of the student body and a further large number of Republican students were also passing on information to their terrorists about Unionists within the teaching staff and even their fellow students. That was the kind of intimidating environment, Graham and others such as David Trimble were working and studying in.

At a prior Sinn Fein seminar, Graham had been identified as one of the most capable Unionists to emerge in a decade; he had also enraged the SFIRA at Queens recently during a debate on the subject of the supergrass system. Those two reasons would have been cause enough for him to be a "legitimate" target; the knock-on indirect effect of further intimidating the more articulate and intelligent Unionists at the University and in the wider society from expressing their opinions and following a political career would have been an added bonus for the Republican movement. The journalist Henry McDonald has said that it was students who murdered Graham and also that the death-squad concerned included a now-leading Belfast member of Sinn Fein. But perhaps the most sickening aspect of the whole case for me is that when the news of his murder was announced in the Queen’s Student Union bar, a large number of the *patrons*(presumably Republicans) present burst into applause and cheers.

We should as Unionists always remember the sacrifice that our predecessors like Edgar Graham had to make for our cause. We should also be aware of and appreciate the much better opportunity we have today to pass on our political beliefs, not just in local places like Queens, but also throughout the world via the internet. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I’m not going to take a bullet in the kneecaps for the crime of posting this article- and the best way for us to keep the memory of heroes like Edgar Graham alive, is to take advantage of this fact and in our own way continue the work of spreading his and our message to all those who are prepared to hear and read it.

(An inscription at the entrance of the debating hall at Stormont)


Chekov said...

Hear hear O'Neill. Superb post!

Anonymous said...

What nothing on Tyrone

Ignited said...

A poignant article. Thanks.

Peter Gray said...

Well Said.Rest in Peace Edgar Graham.

Gary said...

RIP Edgar. You will not be forgotten.