Rev Robert Bradford was a Methodist minister and then a unionist MP (formerly Vanguard, latterly Official/Ulster Unionist). He was shot dead by the IRA in November 1981 while conducting a constituency surgery in Finaghy. Ken Campbell, the caretaker of the community centre was also killed in the attack. Those responsible for the murders have not yet been caught.
Lyra McKee, a young freelance investigative journalist in Belfast, is writing a book about Rev Robert Bradford. Thirty two years after his death, Lyra says “questions remain unanswered”. Were RUC officers aware of the planned attempt on his life? Why was his bodyguard left unharmed? (The HET are reviewing the original RUC investigation.)
For the last 11 months, I’ve been asking questions about Reverend Bradford’s murder and the last months of his life. I’ve interviewed dozens of his friends, colleagues and acquaintances as well as ex-security officials, seeking answers
While Reverend Bradford’s wife wrote a fantastic biography on him, the facts around his death have yet to be established. As one former intelligence official remarked to me, Bradford’s killing was one of a number that didn’t have any “logic”. This book is the first attempt to answer the questions surrounding his murder and to trace the last months of his life.
To finance the latter stages of her project – and to fund travel to follow-up sources and documents – Lyra has applied for a grant from the recently-launched Arthur Guinness Projects that seeks “to invest in Ireland’s creators, visionaries and innovators across four areas of creativity and culture; Music, Sport, Arts and Food” … as well as advertising a brand of dry stout!
Inevitably there’s a public vote. The top 10% of projects in each category will be reviewed by the expert panel who will choose the winning projects, along with up to four wild-card winners from the discarded 90%.
Lyra would like your vote. [Given the nature of Guinness’ rules for the contest, she’d love your vote once a day until the polling ends on the 23 August!]
It will take just five minutes for you to vote – yet it could help me find the truth out and publish this story. Newspapers in Northern Ireland don’t have the money to fund this kind of work so to date, I’ve funded The Muckraker [an online investigative blog and magazine] myself. But now I need your help.
In light of the slow progress of HET investigations and the absence of other formal truth recovery frameworks, perhaps journalism is left as one of the few other ways of trying to resolve the unanswered questions that surround many deaths and incidents during the Troubles?
Lyra answers the Arthur Guinness Projects’ question “Why it’ll make Ireland a better place to be” saying:
“The truth will set you free.” I don’t think Northern Ireland can move on and become a “shared society” until we have answers – answers about why law abiding citizens like Robert Bradford were murdered. As one Catholic who worked with him commented, “Robert gave his life [for Northern Ireland].” We must not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.