Eamon Collins – More Voices From The Grave, Part Two

The leadership at Queens University, Belfast (QUB) was told that one of its law lecturers had met senior members of the Provisional IRA in Belfast just before the IRA launched a series of attacks in the early 1980’s, all of which involved the college’s law faculty, according to accounts of the period made available to thebrokenelbow.com.

But the university apparently chose to do nothing about it even though the warning was followed by three IRA attacks on the campus in the next two years, according to Mick McGovern, the co-author of ‘Killing Rage‘, the life story of Eamon Collins, a senior member of the IRA’s spy-catching unit who was brutally killed by the organisation in 1999 for revealing its secrets.

Edgar Graham

The law lecturer went on the run and sought refuge in Dublin when Collins, the IRA figure who introduced him to the IRA, was arrested by the RUC and agreed to turn ‘supergrass’ against his former colleagues.

The IRA attacks resulted in the death of Edgar Graham, a 29-year old law lecturer and a rising Unionist politician, the serious wounding of an RUC Inspector and law student at the college, and the near death of the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Lowry who narrowly escaped a sniper’s bullets.

The warning to QUB came from David Trimble, then an academic in the Queen’s law faculty but later the First Minister in the first post-Good Friday Agreement administration which saw his party share power with both the SDLP and the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein.

Trimble revealed his role in a series of interviews and exchanges with McGovern before and after his book was published.

A young David Trimble

According to a legal note made in March 1996 by McGovern, Trimble’s claims, were then incorporated into a legal briefing presented to his publishers, Granta.

Mick McGovern has made his notes and the briefing available to thebrokenelbow.com, extracts of which are published below.

Andy Tyrie (r) with UDA colleague John McMichael

He wrote that Trimble had told him that the then UDA Supreme Commander, Andy Tyrie had phoned him to tell him that a law lecturer called David Ewins had been seen in the company of ‘senior republicans’ in Belfast. One of those he met was allegedly a member of the Army Council. How the UDA came across this information was not explained.

It is likely that Tyrie and Trimble knew each other from the early to mid-1970’s when Trimble, along with other Unionist politicians, worked with the UDA to oppose measures such as the Sunningdale power-sharing government.

According to the note:

‘Trimble said he had passed on the information to the university authorities but, so far as he knew, nothing had been done about it.’

Trimble told McGovern, according to the note (see below), that his warning had been given prior to the first IRA attack at the campus.

This means that even when the attacks began QUB seemingly failed to act on Trimble’s warning. The first IRA attack, on Lord Lowry was in March 1982 and the last, on Edgar Graham was in December 1983, a span of twenty-one months.

The law lecturer, an English academic called David Ewins, was later implicated by Eamon Collins in three IRA attacks on the QUB campus, one of which claimed the life of rising Unionist politician Edgar Graham, who was shot dead by a gunman on the pavement outside the law faculty at the university in December 1983.

The first attack was on then Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Lowry who was making his way into the Senior Common Room at QUB to take lunch with members of the law faculty when an IRA gunman opened fire, missing him but wounding an academic who was nearby. That shooting happened in March 1982.

Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry

The second IRA attack happened in May 1982 when a gunman ambushed RUC Inspector William Fulton as he was about to sit one of his law exams. He was hit twice, including once in the head, but miraculously survived.

The third and last attack, in December 1983 claimed the life of Edgar Graham.

Dave Ewins was present for the two of the attacks, on Lord Lowry and Fulton. He was an invigilator at the exam that Inspector Fulton was supposed to sit and was scheduled to attend the lunch with Lowry. When Fulton re-sat the exam, Ewins marked it and gave him a high score.

When Eamon Collins was arrested in 1985 and agreed to become a ‘supergrass’, Ewins fled QUB and the North and settled in Dublin where he obtained work teaching law at a private college. Although Collins retracted his supergrass testimony and was later acquitted of terrorist charges, Ewins stayed in Dublin where he is out of the reach of British authorities.

Queen’s University Belfast

In the face of threats to sue for libel, McGovern’s publishers excluded the chapter on Ewins from the final version of the book. Ewins also threatened to sue Independent Newspapers and Carlton Television which had made a documentary based on Eamon Collins’ story. But after years of inaction the High Court in Dublin struck out Ewins case, while several years later Carlton settled out of court on terms that were not disclosed.

Following that court decision, Mick McGovern published the chapter on Ewins on his blog where it has sat without objection from Ewins for over a decade. It can be accessed here.

Ewins apparently still lives and works in Dublin. He settled in the north of the city, married an African student and has a family.

Here is the title page of the legal note prepared by Mick McGovern for his publisher:

The intro to the legal note prepare for the publisher Granta by Mick McGovern

Part of the note on McGovern’s interview with David Trimble:

6 responses to “Eamon Collins – More Voices From The Grave, Part Two

  1. “The second IRA attack happened in May 1982 when a gunman ambushed RUC Inspector William Fulton as he was about to sit one of his law exams. He was hit twice, including once in the head, but miraculously survived…When Fulton re-sat the exam, Ewins marked it and gave him a high score.”

    That’s very thoughtful for someone who tried to have him killed!

    Did the libel cases in the case of McBride and Collins amount to anything?

  2. Plus I’d imagine it would be difficult for the both of them to have stood in the dock and prove that they had alibis for the dates of the attacks in question!

    These blog posts are fascinating, as the Collins book is easily one of the best ever written about the conflict (even if he does come across as someone who viewed himself as a big fish in a small pond). It seems to have been scrubbed from official narratives of the period, probably due to it not “fitting in” (and especially with the IRA murdering Collins) so it’s really cool to find out more.

    Out of interest, would you consider a blog post about the worst books you’ve read about the conflict, and why you think so?

    • Don’t you think I am in enough doodoo without alienating all those writers??!!

      • HAHAHAHA!! Fair enough.

        I suspect Tyrie got the information from RUC sources and it’s interesting Trimble claiming that Queens did nothing when he alerted them (especially if he’s accurate in remembering that it was before the first attack).

        The only thing I can imagine is that Ewins was hauled in to explain himself by Queens and that he managed to give a convincing story. If, judging by what people say, the law society was firmly right wing unionist in its outlook at that time then surely such associations would have been reported to the police ASAP after the attack on Lowry.

      • or maybe not……..if they had reported it, surely the cops would have moved against him, especially given the calibre of the IRA people he was meeting. even if they had just asked to see him that would have alerted him that they were on to him and he would have stopped his activity – unless he was suicidal. the fact that the cops evidently did not approach him and two further incidents took place, one of them fatal, suggests someone sat on their hands at QUB…..I agree it is unlikely the UDA themselves came across the meeting. more likely someone in the security forces tipped Tyrie off.

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