Richard Ferguson, a success story in London but a great loss to Northern Ireland

It seems to be a season for catching up on obits. Dick Ferguson QC rose to the top of the lawyer’s tree on both sides of the water, as defence counsel in some of this era’s most notorious murder trials . The Fergusons, it may be necessary to remind people, were prominent Fermanagh Unionists. Cousin Raymond was a member of the 1982 Assembly and chairman of Fermanagh Council. Another relative was Harry West, the former Unionist leader. Dick was in a less conventional mould, a remarkable talent but also perhaps partly because of his particular abilities, lacking the emotional stamina to thrive as a liberal unionist public figure in the narrow ground of Northern Ireland. As a young Stormont MP at the start of the Troubles, he seemed the ideal pro O’Neill standard bearer for a younger generation but cracked under the strain and quit active politics. Later as a leading local QC, he abruptly quit a supergrass case and moved to London. Divorced and eventually remarried, he made a whole new social and professional life for himself in London, even more successful than the last. Retaining a hint of his boyish good looks into his seventies, he died prematurely at 73. It’s a game many of us play, to spot those of our own doing well in the wider world. Dick Ferguson’s departure for London was Northern Ireland’s great loss. While there were personal issues in his move, it is a reproach to our community that he could only find himself in exile, even to the extent of opting for burial in Highgate cemetery.