The Kingsmill Massacre – 5 January 1976

Kingsmill Massacre

IRA murders 10 innocent Protestants.

The Kingsmill massacre occurred on January 5, 1976 when ten Protestant men were killed just outside the village of Kingsmill in south Armagh, Northern Ireland by Irish republicans IRA.

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The Kingsmill massacre was one of the worst single incidents in a period of severe sectarian violence during the Troubles, in Northern Ireland.

January 5, 1976, a Ford Transit mini-bus carried Protestant textile workers travelling home from work. The Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade stopped the van and shot the men in cold blood with Armalite rifles, SLRs, a 9mm pistol and an M1 carbine, a total of 136 rounds were fired in less than a minute. No one was ever charged in relation to the Kingsmill killings.

The Kingsmill massacre took place on 5 January 1976 near the village of Kingsmill in south County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying eleven Protestant workmen, lined them up beside it and then shot them. Only one of them survived, despite having been shot 18 times.[1] A group calling itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force claimed responsibility. It said the shooting was retaliation for a string of attacks on Catholic civilians in the area by Loyalists, particularly the killing of six Catholics the night before.[2][3] The Kingsmill massacre was the climax of a string of tit-for-tat killings in the area during the mid-1970s, and was one of the deadliest mass shootings of the Troubles.

A 2011 report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found that members of the Provisional IRA carried out the attack, despite the organisation being on ceasefire. It has been claimed that the IRA members acted without the sanction of the IRA Army Council. The HET report said that the men were targeted because they were Protestants[4][5][6] and that, although it was a response to the night before, it had been planned in advance.[6] The weapons used were linked to 110 other attacks.[7]

Following the massacre, the British government declared County Armagh to be a “Special Emergency Area” and hundreds of extra troops and police were deployed in the area. It also announced that the Special Air Service (SAS) was being moved into South Armagh. This was the first time that SAS presence in Northern Ireland was officially acknowledged.

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The Victims

Alan Black the only survivor of the massacre

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05 January 1976


John McConville,   (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


Walter Chapman,   (23)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


Reginald Chapman, (25)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976

Joseph Lemmon,   (46)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ)

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


James McWhirter,   (58)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


Kenneth Worton,   (24)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


Robert Chambers,  (19)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


John Bryans,   (46)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh

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05 January 1976


Robert Freeburn,  (50)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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05 January 1976


Robert Walker,   (46)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot shortly after his firm’s minibus stopped at bogus vehicle check point while travelling home from work, Kingsmills, near Bessbrook, County Armagh.

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Survivor

Alan Black

Background

On 10 February 1975, the Provisional IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended its raids and searches.[8] However, there were dissenters on both sides. Some Provisionals wanted no part of the truce, while British commanders resented being told to stop their operations against the IRA just when—they claimed—they had the Provisionals on the run.[8] The security forces boosted their intelligence offensive during the truce and thoroughly infiltrated the IRA.[8]

There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce, which ‘officially’ lasted until February 1976. Loyalists, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland,[9] increased their attacks on Irish Catholics/nationalists. Loyalists killed 120 Catholics in 1975, the vast majority civilians.[10] They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate and thus hasten an end to the truce.[10] Under orders not to engage the security forces, some IRA units concentrated on tackling the loyalists. The fall-off of regular operations had caused serious problems of internal discipline and some IRA members, with or without permission from higher up, engaged in tit-for-tat killings.[8] Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members, and current or former members of the Official IRA, were also involved.[8]

Between the beginning of the truce (10 February 1975) and the Kingsmill massacre, loyalist paramilitaries killed 25 Catholic civilians in County Armagh and just over the border in County Louth.[11][12] In that same period, republican paramilitaries killed 14 Protestant civilians and 16 members of the security forces in County Armagh.[11]

  • On 1 September, five Protestant civilians were killed by masked gunmen at Tullyvallan Orange Hall near Newtownhamilton. The attack was claimed by a group calling itself the “South Armagh Republican Action Force”.[11] This was the first time the name had been used.
  • On 19 December, loyalists detonated a car bomb at Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk, a few miles across the Irish border. No warning was given beforehand and two civilians were killed.[11] Later that day, three Catholic civilians were killed and six were wounded in a gun and grenade attack on Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge. The “Red Hand Commandos” claimed responsibility for both attacks.[11] Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers investigating the attack said they believed the culprits included an RUC officer and a British soldier from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).[13]
  • On 31 December, three Protestant civilians were killed in an explosion at the Central Bar, Gilford. The “People’s Republican Army” claimed responsibility.[11] It is believed this was a cover name used by members of the INLA.[14]

The HET report found that while the massacre was in “direct response” to the Reavey and O’Dowd killings, the attack was planned before that: “The murderous attacks on the Reavey and O’Dowd families were simply the catalyst for the premeditated and calculated slaughter of these innocent and defenceless men”.[16]

The attack

The bullet-riddled minibus which had been transporting the 11 Protestant workers who were gunned down as they lined up beside the vehicle

On 5 January 1976 just after 5.30 pm, a red Ford Transit minibus was carrying sixteen textile workers home from work in Glenanne to Bessbrook. Five were Catholics and eleven were Protestants. Four of the Catholics got out at Whitecross, while the rest continued on the road to Bessbrook.[17] As the bus cleared the rise of a hill, it was stopped by a man in British Army uniform standing on the road and flashing a torch.[18] The workers assumed they were being stopped and searched by the British Army. As the bus stopped, eleven masked gunmen with blackened faces and wearing combat jackets emerged from the hedges. A man “with a pronounced English accent” then began talking.[19] He ordered them to line-up beside the bus and then asked “Who is the Catholic?”.[18] The only Catholic was Richard Hughes. His workmates—now fearing that the gunmen were loyalists who had come to kill him—tried to stop him from identifying himself.[19] However, when Hughes stepped forward the gunman told him to “Get down the road and don’t look back”.[20] The lead gunman then said “Right” and the other armed men immediately opened fire on the workers.[21]

The remaining eleven men were shot at very close range with AR-18 and L1A1 SLR rifles, a 9mm pistol, and an M1 carbine. A total of 136 rounds were fired in less than a minute. The dead and wounded men’s bodies fell on top of each other. When the shooting stopped, one of the gunmen walked amongst the dying men and shot each of them in the head as they lay on the ground.[22] Ten of them died at the scene; John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Walker and Kenneth Worton.[23] Alan Black survived despite having eighteen gunshot wounds.[24]

Hughes managed to stop a car and was driven to Bessbrook RUC station, where he raised the alarm. Meanwhile, a man and his wife had come upon the scene of the killings and had begun praying beside the victims. They found Alan Black, who was lying in a ditch and badly wounded. When an ambulance arrived, Black was taken to hospital in Newry, where he was operated on and survived.[25] A police officer said that the road was “an indescribable scene of carnage”,[26] whilst Johnston Chapman, the uncle of victims Reginald and Walter Chapman, said that the dead men were “just lying there like dogs, blood everywhere”.[27] At least two of the victims were so badly mutilated by gunfire that immediate relatives were prevented from identifying them. One relative stated that the hospital mortuary “was like a butcher’s shop with bodies lying on the floor like slabs of meat”.[24]

Nine of the dead, the textile workers, were from the village of Bessbrook, while the bus driver, Robert Walker (46), was from nearby Mountnorris.[2] Four of the men were members of the Orange Order.[28]

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Evidence exists to arrest untouchable IRA killers who committed the Kingsmills massacre

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The perpetrators

The next day, a caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the South Armagh Republican Action Force. He said that it was retaliation for the Reavey and O’Dowd killings of the night before,[19][29] and that there would be “no further action on our part” if loyalists stopped their attacks. He added that the group had no connection with the IRA.[19]

The IRA at the time denied responsibility for the killings. It stated on 17 January 1976:

The Irish Republican Army has never initiated sectarian killings… [but] if loyalist elements responsible for over 300 sectarian assassinations in the past four years stop such killing now, then the question of retaliation from whatever source does not arise.[30]

However, a 2011 report by the Historical Inquiries Team (HET) found that Provisional IRA members were responsible[6][31] and that the “South Armagh Republican Action Force” was merely a covername. It added: “There is some intelligence that the Provisional IRA unit responsible was not well-disposed towards central co-ordination but there is no excuse in that. These dreadful murders were carried out by the Provisional IRA and none other”.[16] Responding to the report, Sinn Féin spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin said that he did “not dispute the sectarian nature of the killings” but continued to believe “the denials by the IRA that they were involved”.[32][33] SDLP Assemblyman Dominic Bradley called on Sinn Féin to “publicly accept that the HET’s forensic evidence on the firearms used puts Provisional responsibility beyond question” and cease “deny[ing] that the Provisional IRA was in the business of organising sectarian killings on a large scale”.[34]

According to the account of journalist Toby Harnden, the British Military Intelligence assessment at the time was that the attack was carried out by local IRA members “who were acting outside of the normal IRA command structure”.[35] He also quoted an alleged South Armagh IRA member, Volunteer M, who said that “IRA members were ordered by their leaders to carry out the Kingsmill massacre”.[36] Furthermore, Harnden reported a contradictory RUC allegation that the attack was planned, and that future Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was among the IRA members who planned it (at the nearby Road House pub on New Year’s Eve) and took part.[37]

It was alleged by Harnden that IRA Chief of Staff Seamus Twomey, on the suggestion of Brian Keenan, ordered that there had to be a disproportionate retaliation against Protestants in order to stop Catholics being killed by loyalists. According to IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan, “Keenan believed that the only way to put the nonsense out of the Prods [Protestants], was to hit back much harder and more savagely than them”.[38] However, O’Callaghan reports that Twomey and Keenan did not consult the IRA Army Council before sanctioning the Kingsmill attack. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh claims that he and Twomey only learned of the Kingsmill attack after it had taken place.[39]

Two AR-18 rifles used in the shooting were found by the British Army in 1990 in a wall near Cullyhanna and forensically tested. It was reported that the rifles were linked to 17 killings in the South Armagh area from 1974 to 1990.[40] Further ballistic studies found that guns used in the attack were linked to 37 killings, 22 attempted killings, 19 non-fatal shootings and 11 finds of spent cartridges between 1974 and 1989.[41]

In 2012, a secret Royal Military Police (RMP) document shown to the Sunday World newspaper revealed that the gunman who finished off the dying men could have been arrested five months later. The document says that the man (referred to as ‘P’) was wounded when British soldiers engaged an IRA unit near the Mountain House Inn on the Newry–Newtownhamilton Road on 25 June 1976. He managed to flee over the border and was treated at Louth County Hospital shortly after. The three other members of the IRA unit were captured within hours. According to the RMP document, two of them named ‘P’ as the fourth member. Four guns were also captured by security forces after the gunfight, including two that had been used in the Kingsmill massacre. The RMP document reveals that both the British Army and RUC knew that ‘P’ was being treated at the hospital but “made no attempt to have him arrested and extradited”. This has led to suspicions that ‘P’ – “who has never been prosecuted despite extensive paramilitary involvement” – was a British agent.[22]

Ian Paisley’s claims

In 1999, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley stated in the House of Commons that Eugene Reavey took part in the massacre. Eugene Reavey’s three brothers were shot by loyalists the day before, although Paisley made no reference to those killings.[42]

Eugene Reavey had “witnessed the immediate aftermath of the [Kingsmill] massacre, which took place near his home. He was driving to Newry and happened upon it. He and his family were on their way to Daisy Hill hospital to collect the bodies of two of his brothers, John (24) and Brian (22).”[43] Eugene Reavey “was also going to visit his younger brother, Anthony, who had been badly injured in the attack. The bodies of the murdered workmen were being brought into the mortuary when he arrived. He went into the room where the shattered families were gathering, and wept with them. Alan Black [sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre] and Anthony Reavey shared a hospital room. Black lived whilst Reavey later died.”[43]

Paisley used parliamentary privilege to name those he believed responsible, including Eugene Reavey, whom he accused of being “a well-known republican” who “set up the Kingsmills massacre”. Paisley claimed to be quoting from what he described as a “police dossier” but what is believed to be an Ulster Defence Regiment intelligence file.[44][45] Paisley’s claims were rejected by the sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, Alan Black, and also by Reavey himself.

Susan McKay wrote in the Irish Times that Alan Black, on hearing Paisley’s accusations,

…went straight to the Reaveys’ house in Whitecross, south Armagh. He told Reavey that he knew he was innocent. The PSNI has stated that it had no reason to suspect Reavey of any crime, let alone of masterminding the atrocity … The then Northern Ireland deputy first minister, the SDLP‘s Seamus Mallon, expressed outrage. Reavey went to the chief constable of the RUC, Ronnie Flanagan. Flanagan said he had “absolutely no evidence whatsoever” to connect him with the massacre, and that no police file contained any such allegation.[46]

In January 2007, the Police Service of Northern Ireland‘s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) apologised to the Reavey family for security forces allegations that the three brothers killed in 1976 were IRA members or that Eugene Reavey had been involved in the Kingsmill attack.[47][48] Despite this, the allegation continued to be promoted by local unionist activist Willie Frazer of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR).[49] In May 2010, the HET released a report which exonerated the three Reavey brothers and their family of any links to paramilitarism, leading Eugene Reavey to demand an apology from Ian Paisley for the comments he made in 1999.[50] Paisley died in 2014 without retracting his allegations.[51]

Strong indications of UDR involvement and collusion with the UVF led to a case being taken before the European Court of Human Rights regarding the killings.[52] In November 2007, the court ruled that the RUC had not properly investigated allegations made by John Weir, a former RUC officer and self-confessed former member of the Glennane gang.[53][54][55][56] Weir has made detailed claims of collusion between high-ranking members of the security forces and paramilitary groups.[57][56][58][dead link]

Alan Black’s claims

Alan Black survived the Kingsmill shooting
Alan Black

Alan Black, the sole survivor, has claimed that state agents were involved.[59]

Reactions and aftermath

The Kingsmill massacre was the last in the series of sectarian killings in South Armagh during the mid-1970s. According to Willie Frazer of FAIR, this was as a result of deal between the local UVF and IRA groups.[60]

Two days after the massacre, Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced that the Special Air Service (SAS) was being moved into the South Armagh area. This was the first time that SAS presence in Northern Ireland was officially acknowledged.[61] However, according to historian Richard English, “It seems clear that the SAS had been in the north well before this. According to the Provisionals since 1971; according to a former SAS soldier they had been there even earlier”. Units and personnel under SAS control are alleged to have been involved in loyalist attacks.[62] Author Toby Harnden places regiment’s B squadron in Belfast as early as 1974.[63]

Loyalist response

See Glenanne Gang

There were no immediate revenge attacks by loyalist paramilitaries. However, in 2007 it emerged that local UVF members from the “Glenanne gang” had planned to kill at least 30 Catholic school children as retaliation.[64][65] This gang had been involved in the Reavey–O’Dowd killings and it included members of the RUC’s Special Patrol Group and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment.[64][65] Following the Kingsmill shootings, the gang drew-up plans to attack St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School in the South Armagh village of Belleeks.[64][65] The plan was aborted at the last minute on orders of the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership), who ruled that it would be “morally unacceptable”, would undermine support for the UVF, and could lead to civil war.[64][65] One Glenanne gang member said that the UVF leadership also feared the potential IRA response.[66] The gang member who suggested the attack was a UDR soldier. The leadership allegedly suspected that he was working for British Military Intelligence,[64][65] and that Military Intelligence were seeking to provoke a civil war.[66]

Another UVF gang, the “Shankill Butchers“, also planned retaliation for the massacre. This gang, led by Lenny Murphy, operated in Belfast and was notorious for its late-night kidnapping, torture and murder (by throat slashing) of random Catholic civilians. Within a week of the massacre, Murphy had laid the groundwork for an attack on a lorry that ferried Catholic workmen to Corry’s Timber Yard in West Belfast. The plan was to shoot all of those on board. However, Murphy abandoned the plan after the workers changed their route and transport.[67]

Some loyalists claim the Kingsmill massacre is the reason they joined paramilitary groups. One was Billy Wright, who said:

I was 15 when those workmen were pulled out of that bus and shot dead. I was a Protestant and I realised that they had been killed simply because they were Protestants. I left Mountnorris, came back to Portadown and immediately joined the youth wing of the UVF.[68]

He went on to assume command of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade when its leader Robin “the Jackal” Jackson “retired” in the early 1990s; Wright later founded the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. He was suspected of at least 20 sectarian killings of Catholics in the 1980s and 1990s.[69] Another with similar claims was RUC Special Patrol Group officer Billy McCaughey, who was one of the RUC officers present at the aftermath of the massacre. He told Toby Harnden, “the sides of the road were running red with blood and it was the blood of totally innocent Protestants”. Afterwards, McCaughey says that he began passing RUC intelligence to loyalist militants and also to participate in their operations. McCaughey was convicted in 1980 of one sectarian killing, the kidnapping of a Catholic priest, and one failed bombing.[70] However, McCaughey had colluded with loyalists before the Kingsmill attack, and later admitted to taking part in the Reavey killings the day before – he claimed he “was at the house but fired no shots”.[71] McCaughey also gave his view on how the massacre affected loyalists:

I think Kingsmills forced people to ask themselves where they were going, especially the Protestant support base, the civilian support base – the people who were not members of the UVF but would let you use a building or a field. Those people, many of them withdrew. It wasn’t because of anything the UVF did. It was fear of retaliation.[19]

No one was ever charged in relation to the Kingsmill massacre. In August 2003, there were calls for the Police Service of Northern Ireland to reopen the files relating to the massacre.[72]

Republican response

As noted above, the IRA denied involvement in the attack. Although author Toby Harnden and others have alleged that it was ordered by elements of the IRA leadership (Seamus Twomey and Brian Keenan), other republican leaders were reported to be very unhappy about it. According to the informer Sean O’Callaghan, Gerry Adams said in an Army Council meeting, “there’ll never again be another Kingsmill”.[73]

Harnden stated that IRA members in South Armagh who talked to him in the late 1990s generally condemned the massacre. One of them, Volunteer M, was quoted as saying that it was “a gut reaction [to the killing of Catholics] and a wrong one. The worst time in my life was in jail after Kingsmill. It was a dishonourable time”. Another, Volunteer G, was quoted as saying that he “never agreed with Kingsmill”. Republican activist Peter John Caraher said that those ultimately responsible were “the loyalists who shot the Reavey brothers”. He added, “It was sad that those people [at Kingsmill] had to die, but I’ll tell you something, it stopped any more Catholics being killed”.[74] This view was reiterated by a County Tyrone republican and Gaelic Athletic Association veteran who spoke to Ed Moloney. “It’s a lesson you learn quickly on the football field… If you’re fouled, you hit back”, he said.[75]

Memorial parade controversy

In February 2012, controversy arose when Willie Frazer of FAIR proposed a “March for Justice” in which the victims’ relatives, along with 11 loyalist bands, would follow the route taken by the workmen the night they were killed. This would have meant passing through the mainly nationalist village of Whitecross and past the homes of the Reavey family, where the three brothers had been killed the night before the massacre.[76] Over 200 people voiced their opposition to the march at a meeting with the Parades Commission in Whitecross. Local SDLP and Sinn Féin representatives also opposed it, saying it would raise sectarian tension in the area.[77] The Parades Commission approved the march on condition that there be no marching bands, flags, banners or placards. Pastor Barrie Halliday, a member of FAIR, received a death threat telling him that he would be shot and his church would be burnt if the march went ahead.[78] The organizers postponed the march; a move that was welcomed by local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy and Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy.[79]

Memorials

There is a memorial in Beesbrook inscribed ‘The Innocent Victims Murdered at Kingsmills’.[80]

A second memorial, near the site of the attack was vandalised on Friday 30 November 2012 while it was undergoing construction. IRA graffiti was scratched into the plaster of the memorial. Danny Kennedy MLA, who has campaigned on behalf of the families, said he was “absolutely appalled by the attack”. The Ulster Unionist representative also claimed that there was an attempt to “intimidate” construction workers at the memorial site, prior to the graffiti appearing. [81] [82]

In June 2013, Northern Ireland’s SDLP Environment Minister Alex Attwood apologised that his Department has sent a letter to the land owner of the memorial site demanding it be removed as it did not have planning permission. Attwood said: “That letter should not have been issued. How the planning system went off and issued a letter is beyond me. I am not happy.” MLA William Irwin criticised the Department’s action and contrasted it with its inaction over 19 “illegal roadside terrorist memorials”, five of which were in the Newry and Armagh constituency, which similarly had no planning permission

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Alan Black

Alan Black outside the Belfast Coroner's Court on Tuesday.

The sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre has threatened legal action over the failure to appoint a new coroner to hear a fresh inquest into the murders of 10 Protestant workmen in South Armagh almost 40 years ago

A number of victims’ relatives joined Alan Black in issuing the ultimatum to the Department of Justice on Tuesday.

He was one of 11 textile workers who were ambushed in South Armagh in 1976. Ten of the men died when they were lined up against the minibus they were travelling in and shot.

Northern Ireland’s Senior Coroner John Leckey has been presiding over preliminary proceedings ahead of the new inquest being heard, but he is due to retire in the autumn.

No other coroner has been assigned to the case, despite calls from Mr Leckey for Justice Minister David Ford to find a successor.

During the final preliminary hearing in the case before retirement, a lawyer representing Mr Black and the family of victim John McConville warned judicial review proceedings would be initiated if no action is taken.

Mr Black said the families would not accept a further hold-up in their long battle for an inquest.

“Over the years since we got involved, it has been one obstacle put in our way after the other and all coming from the Department of Justice,” he said.

“They knew for two years that John Leckey was going to go. David Ford wants to kick us into the long grass again, we are not going.

“We’ll do whatever’s necessary with the legal people and hopefully get a result then.”

No one has been convicted of the murders, which were widely blamed on the IRA, although the organisation never admitted responsibility.

Mr Black was hit 18 times but survived the gun attack.

The only Catholic worker was told to flee the scene.

In a statement, a spokesman for the justice minister said: “The Department of Justice fully appreciates the concerns of the families who are awaiting inquests into the deaths of loved ones.

“The Coroners Service currently has three full-time coroners, including the senior coroner.

“The justice minister also recently approved the appointment of an additional county court judge to create additional judicial capacity for legacy cases.

“The assignment of a coroner to hear inquests is currently the responsibility of the senior coroner and will become the responsibility of the Lord Chief Justice when he assumes the Presidency of the Coroners’ Courts.”

This story first appeared on UTV in June 2015

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The sole survivor of a sectarian massacre of 10 Protestant workmen in Northern Ireland has led a solitary life since the slaughter, a lawyer told an inquest

Alan Black was shot 18 times and left for dead alongside the lifeless bodies of his friends, cut down in a hail of bullets by a South Armagh roadside in 1976, blamed on He has problems trusting people and suffered health issues, a Belfast courtroom was told. The elderly former engineer applied for legal representation in an upcoming coroner’s investigation into a mass killing near the village of Kingsmill, one of the most notorious Troubles shootings.

Barrister Fiona Doherty told the hearing: “He has not been able to work since the shooting and leads a solitary life.”

The textile workers were gunned down after a masked gang stopped their minibus close to Kingsmill as they were travelling home from work.

They were forced to line up alongside the van and ordered to divulge their religion. The only Catholic was told to flee while the 11 remaining were shot.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders, widely blamed on the IRA even though the organisation never admitted responsibility

Ms Doherty said the only survivor had left school at 15 and worked as a mechanic or engineer until the incident.

She argued that she should be allowed to represent him, alongside relatives of the deceased, during what is expected to be one of the largest inquests in recent times in Northern Ireland.

She claimed it would be nearly impossible for him to properly understand and respond to the evidence and stressed his importance to shed light on what happened.

“He is not simply a witness, he is a survivor.

“He is the only person who can give a first hand account of what happened.”

She told coroner Brian Sherrard it may be only when another witness gave evidence or documents were made available that the value of his input was realised.

“The court should be very slow to disregard that full input and the benefit that you and the inquest get from having that input.”

She argued counsel for the coroner could not adequately replace a dedicated lawyer.

“He needs help and support to come from people he knows and trusts and has built up a rapport with. He has issues with trust stemming from the incident…and he needs help and support to be fully informed.”

She warned the consequences of not granting legal representation could be profound.

“There is a real risk that the inquest will pass him by.”

A barrister for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Peter Coll, asked what purpose would be served.

“What extra element will be brought to the inquest proceedings, what marks Mr Black out as being different from a witness/survivor in any other incident?

“We respectfully say there would be nothing to be gained from it.”

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