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17 Feb 2014
Alan Black, pictured at today’s hearing, was shot 18 times
A man who survived an IRA massacre of ten Protestant workmen believes state agents may have been involved in the attack, a coroner’s court has heard.
A lawyer for Alan Black made the claim as preliminary proceedings got under way ahead of a new inquest into the Kingsmill shootings in 1976.
Ten textile workers were shot dead by the side of a road near the Co Armagh village after masked gunmen flagged down the minibus they were travelling home from work in.
The killers asked all the occupants of the vehicle what religion they were.
The only Catholic worker was ordered away from the scene and the 11 remaining workmates were then shot.
Mr Black survived, despite being shot 18 times. He was the only survivor.
At the first preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast’s Old Town Hall, barrister Eugene McKenna, representing Mr Black, told Northern Ireland’s senior coroner John Leckey that his client suspected state involvement.
“Mr Black believes there may have been agents of the state involved in the attack itself,” he said.
Mr Leckey said he had read Mr Black’s account of what unfolded on the day and had been shocked.
“It’s difficult really to take in the horror that he experienced,” he said.
The coroner added: “This was one of the most horrific incidents in the so-called Troubles and I’m sure not only for Mr Black, but for the families [of the dead], the horror of what happened is still very much to the forefront of their minds.”
No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.
There were 12 men in the gang that committed the attack.
The ten men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.
The court heard that Richard Hughes, the Catholic man who managed to escape the carnage, has since died.
The IRA never admitted responsibility for the murders but an investigation by the police’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) three years ago found that members of the republican organisation did perpetrate the attack, motivated purely by sectarianism.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin, ordered the fresh inquest last year after a long campaign by bereaved relatives.
By Gemma Murray
17 February 2014
Memorial Wall in memory of all those who lost their lives in the Kingsmills Massacre.
Families of Kingsmills victims will today attend Belfast inquest court for a preliminary hearing into the deaths of 10 men killed in an horrific roadside shooting.
Sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black, said he is “very relieved” that it has finally got to this stage. He said the inquest into the deaths is “long, long overdue”.
The first inquest into the atrocity was held in 1977. No evidence was heard and an “open verdict” was recorded.
In June 2011, a HET report brushed aside all excuses that the IRA had not been responsible and said the murders had been “pure sectarianism” and “appalling savagery” which had been planned for some considerable time before being carried out.
Mr Black, who still suffers from the injuries he received during the shooting, said of today’s preliminary hearing : “This is a giant first step and I never thought I would see this day coming, not for a long long time. None of this would have happened without John McConville’s sisters. They led the way in this. All of this is down to their perseverance and determination to get to the truth of the whole thing.”
Karen Armstong, 56, whose big brother John McConville was murdered, said she started to push for the inquest independently “more than a year ago”.
“So we contacted the attorney general and corresponded with him for a couple of months. I am the oldest sister, having lost our parents, so I felt we could not go through the rest of my life not doing something,” she said yesterday.
“Even though we have this hearing tomorrow it is still very difficult for us as a family to have to face up to listening to the hard facts that may come out. Obviously tomorrow it is a preliminary hearing and we are not sure what the outcome of that will be.”
Mrs Armstrong said her family “loved my brother John so much and had such respect for him”. “John was 20, the oldest, and would have been 58-years-old now,” she added.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, who has campaigned for the reopening of the Kingsmills inquest, added: “I expect the inquest to be formerly opened tomorrow morning and the coroner will indicate the information he needs to proceed.
“The inquest has been pursued by all the families. I am pleased we have got to this stage that the inquest is being reopened. It has been a struggle and a battle for all of the families over the 38 years since the dreadful events of Kingsmills, and it is a landmark step in the quest for maximum justice. I hope to provide whatever support I can.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has also been heavily involved in helping Kingsmills families fight for a fresh inquest and justice.
“Monday’s preliminary hearing is just the first step in the process of addressing that unacceptable situation,” he said.
“It must also be remembered the Kingsmills massacre is linked to numerous other murders in south Armagh so this inquest could be an extremely significant process indeed.”
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was murdered in the atrocity, said: “We are so thankful it has got this far. We all called for an inquest, and we are here now.”
On January 5, 1976, just after 5pm, the Kingsmills massacre took place in south Armagh.
Gunmen stopped 12 workmen travelling home to Bessbrook from a textile factory in a red minibus, lined them up against the side of the road and shot them.
One Catholic workman was pulled from the line-up and asked to flee the scene. Then the gunmen opened fire.
One of the men – Alan Black – was shot 18 times, but survived. He is now the sole survivor of the atrocity.
The men who were murdered on the roadside were: John Bryans; Robert Chambers; Reginald Chapman; Walter Chapman; Robert Freeburn; Joseph Lemmon; John McConville; James McWhirter; Robert Samuel Walker; and Kenneth Worton.
17 June 2012
THE families of 10 Protestants murdered in an IRA attack from the Republic have been promised a meeting by the Taoiseach after a year-long campaign.
In 1976 the IRA gunned down the 10 workmen by the side of the road at Kingsmills in south Armagh. The attack was planned and executed from the Republic and the killers sought safe haven there afterwards.
Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy said that he had approached Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the matter at a north-south ministerial meeting in Dublin yesterday, having also approached him about it in November.
“He agreed that as a means of progress we would have a meeting with a senior official in preparation for a meeting with Mr Kenny himself,” the senior UUP Assembly member said.
The Newry and Armagh representative was pleased “at long last” to have got an agreement to the meeting, having pursued the Irish prime minister for over a year with no success. He praised Mr Kenny’s “positive approach” to the issue yesterday, adding that the families and Taoiseach would likely meet “before the end of the summer”.
The Taoiseach has caused intense anger among unionists over the past year by repeatedly calling for an inquiry into the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane while avoiding any commitment on the Kingsmills families.
Mr Kennedy said the aim of meeting the Taoiseach was to seek “public recognition” for the “failure” of successive Irish governments since 1976 to “deal” with countless IRA attacks made from the Republic.
Fermanagh and Tyrone DUP MLA Arlene Foster welcomed the progress, adding that IRA victims from Fermanagh are also expected to meet the Taoiseach as part of the process.
“It is important that the role of the IRA in these types of border attacks is highlighted so that we do not just have a partial history of the Troubles,” she said.
Pastor Barrie Halliday, who is supporting the Kingsmills families, said they had been asking Dublin to facilitate a victims’ parade there to highlight their cause.
“The Finucane family don’t have to parade in London for recognition there,” he said. “So it appears Dublin is playing catch-up in giving equality to the Kingsmills families.”
20 April 2012
THE Taoiseach appears to be creating a “hierarchy of victims” by pressing for a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder while failing to meet relatives of the Kingsmills massacre, it was claimed last night.
Enda Kenny was giving the Chancellor’s Lecture at the University of Ulster in Belfast, in which he said British and Irish relations have never been stronger. But he said the governments still disagree on the calls for a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Mr Finucane was shot by loyalist paramilitaries at his north Belfast home in 1989, but the Government has apologised after security forces were exposed as having colluded in the killing.
Mr Kenny said last night: “Prime Minister David Cameron and I signed a joint statement on intensifying British-Irish relations for the next decade.
“This important initiative recognises that British-Irish relations have never been stronger. The state visit of Her Majesty The Queen last year served as a symbol of a modern, deep and friendly relationship. It was the birth of a new phase in the relationship between our islands.”
But he added: “While working closely with my British counterpart, there are matters on which we share a difference of opinion. Late last year, I had the privilege of presenting Geraldine Finucane with a Person of the Year Award in Belfast and I want to say once again how much I respect and admire the way she has campaigned for over 22 years, with great dignity and courage, and I support her in her campaign for a full public inquiry.”
However Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey said last night he was “very disappointed Mr Kenny is persisting with this”.
Despite the UUP pressing the Taoiseach to meet the Kingsmills families for 11 months, Mr Kenney has not yet confirmed a date on which he will see them.
Ten Protestant workmen were slain by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976. The PSNI Historical Enquiries Team found that key suspects benefited from safe haven across the border after the murders. Nobody has ever been charged.
“Mr Kenny has still to confirm a date when he will meet the Kingsmills families,” Lord Empey added. “The murder of Pat Finucane was outrageous and is the subject of a substantial investigation which is due to report in December.
“But what is unique about the Finucane murder when compared to the Kingsmills, Omagh, Teebane or Tullyvallen atrocities, none of which are currently due to be examined by public inquiry?”
He said it appeared the Taoiseach’s conduct was creating a “hierarchy of victims” from the Troubles.
His party colleague executive minister Danny Kennedy, who has been pressing for a meeting with Mr Kenney and the Kingsmills families for 11 months, said the Taoiseach has agreed in principle to meet them but has not given a date.
“The families are angry and frustrated,” the UUP MLA said. “They feel like they are being treated as second class citizens.”
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer, who is working closely with the Kingsmills families, said he had recently called off discussions with senior Garda at the last minute because he was assured the Taoiseach would meet the families.
“I was meeting the Garda to organise a fresh victims’ parade in Dublin,” he said. “When I heard Enda Kennedy had agreed to meet the Kingsmills families we did not go through with the meeting. But now that we hear he has failed to confirm a date we feel very angry.”
Colin Worton, whose elder brother Kenneth was murdered at Kingsmills, agreed.
“The Taoiseach should be even handed and meet victims from our side of the community too,” he said. “Only meeting one side of the community is not really on”.
19 April 2012
DAVID Cameron has come under renewed pressure to meet relatives of 10 innocent workmen murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976.
Yesterday, South Antrim MP William McCrea asked the Prime Minister in Westminster if he would meet with the victims’ families, after they failed to receive a response from a request by First Minister Peter Robinson.
“The Prime Minister has met with the families of some of those people who were murdered during the Troubles and he has repeatedly stated his desire to be balanced,” said the DUP MP.
“In January Peter Robinson wrote to the Prime Minister requesting that Mr Cameron meet with the families of the 10 innocent workmen who were murdered by the IRA. To date there has been no response to this invitation and as such it was appropriate to request an assurance from him today in Parliament that he would meet with the families.”
Mr Cameron replied in the Commons that the massacre was “an appalling event in Northern Ireland’s history”.
He added: “I will arrange a meeting for the families with the Northern Ireland Secretary. If it is possible for me to attend I will do that as well.”
However Mr McCrea said afterwards that it is “disappointing” that Mr Cameron could not definitively state that he would meet the “still grieving relatives”. The DUP MP said it is “imperative” for the Prime Minister to meet them “to hear personally about their continued quest for justice”.
Colin Worton, whose older brother Kenneth was murdered at Kingsmills, wants to meet Mr Cameron.
“He has met others including the Finucane family,” he said. “The Taoiseach has also met the Finucanes and likewise has refused to meet us. All we want is equality.”
His aim is convictions of those responsible or that they would be “named and shamed”. The Historical Enquiries Team said the IRA was responsible for the “sectarian” murders but Sinn Fein has not accepted the finding.
29 March 2012
DANNY Kennedy has revealed he is “very hopeful” that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will meet with families of victims of the Kingsmills massacre.
The UUP Executive minister said a meeting had been sought after a HET report into the 1976 atrocity was published last June.
The Ulster Unionist MLA said: “I can confirm this meeting has been sought since last June and I am very keen for it to happen as quickly as possible.
“I hope it will involve the families themselves and their representatives.”
Last night, a spokeswoman for the Taoiseach said: “A request has been received and it has been sent to the relevant section.”
Mr Kennedy said he spoke directly to Mr Kenny last week.
“I am still waiting for final confirmation.
“I am optimistic on the basis of my discussions last week with the Taoiseach and his officials that a meeting can be arranged as quickly as possible.
“It is likely it will be in Dublin.”
The Kingsmills massacre took place in south Armagh.
Eleven Protestant workmen were taken from a minibus, 10 of whom were shot dead by a group calling itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force. One man survived, despite having been shot 18 times.
A HET investigation into the incident found that members of the PIRA had carried out the attack despite the organisation being on ceasefire.
It also found that the victims were targeted simply because of their religion.
The report said that the attack had been planned some time in advance and the weapons were used in another 110 murders or attempted murders.
Victims’ representative Willie Frazer said news of the proposed meeting with the Taoiseach came hours before he met with senior Garda officers in Balbriggan to discuss plans for a Victims’ March in Dublin later this year.
Mr Frazer said the march may not be going ahead now in light of further developments.
“We asked for this meeting more than one year ago, but this news is a very welcome development,” he said.
“Hopefully we will not now need to proceed with the march in Dublin. But, as we had the meeting with the Garda officers arranged, I went ahead and met them to explain the situation.”
Mr Frazer said if the meeting with the Taoiseach goes ahead, he plans to raise the issue of collusion.
“There are a number of things we want to talk with him about, including collusion – and how the perpetrators of the Kingsmills massacre were able to live openly on the other side of the border.
“It will certainly be very interesting.”
19 Feb 2012
A top secret British Army document shows an IRA killer who slaughtered 10 Protestants at Kingsmill could have been arrested months later when he was injured in a gun battle.
The report given to the Sunday World reveals how the RUC and British Army knew the IRA murderer was being treated in Louth county hospital in Dundalk but made no attempt to have him arrested and extradited.
The failure to bring the Provo to justice has led to suspicions that the man – who has never been prosecuted despite extensive paramilitary involvement – was a British agent.
The killer can’t be named for legal reasons. ‘P’ is from the south Armagh village of Belleek but now lives in the Republic.
The Kingsmill families want the Irish government to allow the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to question him. The HET currently have no authority to arrest or interview suspects living across the border.
The south Armagh man escaped after a gun battle with British paratroopers in which three other IRA members, including legendary republican Raymond McCreesh who would later die on hunger-strike, were captured.
‘P’ was shot and wounded when the paras opened fire on an IRA unit near the Mountain House inn on the Newry-Newtownhamilton Road on June 25 1976. He was struck by three bullets in the leg, arm and chest but managed to crawl away.
He was then ferried across the border and treated at Louth hospital hours later.
A Royal Military Police document dated August 19 1976 reveals that both the RUC and British Army knew he was there but failed to contact gardai to have him arrested.
Four guns were recaptured by the security forces after the gun battle with the IRA, including two which had been used in the infamous Kingsmill massacre five months earlier.
Ten Protestant workers were taken from their minibus in January 1976 and brutally slain by the side of the road.
They were lined up beside their van and shot from two feet. Some fell on top of each other. Then ‘P’, one of the 12 gunmen, walked round the dying men and shot each of them again in the head as they lay on the ground.
Willie Frazer, director of IRA victims group FAIR – who is organising a controversial march through south Armagh to commemorate Kingsmill next weekend, said the security forces were guilty of grave negligence.
“This man did one of the coldest, cruellest things imaginable. He walked over and coolly finished off dying men who were lying in pools of their own blood.” Frazer said.
“Five months later, there was the perfect opportunity to have him arrested when he lay in a hospital bed a few miles across the Border. But neither the police nor the army bothered.
“It must be asked why this IRA man is a protected species. He carried out one of the most heinous acts during the conflict but has never even been interviewed about it.
“Today he walks the streets a free man while the families of the dead are still grieving and are tortured with horrible thoughts of the last moments of their loved ones lives.”
Colin Worton, whose 24-year-old brother Kenneth was killed in the atrocity, said he was appalled by the failure to pursue his brother’s murderer.
“The RUC should have asked gardai to arrest and extradite him to Northern Ireland. At the very least, he should have been questioned about Kingsmill. It makes no sense.
“It’s only now we’re realising it was a very dirty war. But the Irish government still has the power to rectify the situation. They must let the HET interview ‘P’ immediately.”
The four IRA men fled after the gun battle with the paras near the Mountain House inn but three were captured hours later. Daniel McGuinness (18) from the south Armagh village of Camlough was found sleeping in a quarry.
Paddy Quinn (24) from Belleek and Raymond McCreesh (19) from Camlough were discovered in a nearby house. According to the secret army document both Quinn and McCreesh allegedly broke the IRA code of secrecy and named ‘P’ to soldiers as the fourth gunman.
All three captured men were later sentenced to 14 years in jail for attempted murder of the paras. McCreesh became the third hunger-striker to die in the 1981 H-Block death fast.
Paddy Quinn also went on hunger-strike but his mother took him off the protest after 47 days when he was close to death.
February 20, 2012
This article appeared in the February 19, 2012 edition of the Sunday World.
3 February 2012
SHOCKED English MPs have rejected a Stormont minister’s testimony that the IRA carried out “genocide” against unionists in south Armagh.
Danny Kennedy was giving evidence at Stormont yesterday, along with families of the 10 Protestant workmen massacred by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976, to English MPs from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
The committee is visiting Northern Ireland on a low-key ‘information visit’, with a particular interest in hearing from various groups about dealing with Northern Ireland’s past.
“We felt it was important to engage with them,” Mr Kennedy said. “But they were not accepting of my term ‘genocide’ to describe what happened in south Armagh.
“However, I stand over the term, because the experience of many unionists in the area was that the IRA had a dedicated campaign to remove them.
“Whether you want to call it ethnic cleansing or genocide, it amounts to the same thing.
“A couple of committee members reacted to the term genocide. That is a matter for them.”
He said it was important for the MPs to hear from the sole survivor of the Kingsmills massacre, Alan Black, who made a rare appearance yesterday to tell MPs what happened on the night of the murders.
“Our recommendation to the MPs was that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the Kingsmills murders was not enough,” Mr Kennedy said. “The investigation will have to be continued by the PSNI.”
Mr Kennedy also made a strong case for funding to be restored to south Armagh victims group FAIR, in order to support the Kingsmills families. Stormont funding was withdrawn after allegations of tendering irregularities, but funders have declined to publish the conclusions of their investigations into the group.
English MPs from the committee are here to talk to a variety of groups, predominantly on the theme of dealing with Northern Ireland’s past, Mr Kennedy said. They met with the First and Deputy First Ministers immediately before the Kingsmills families and are also meeting with the Reavey family, who lost three brothers to the UVF in south Armagh, and relatives who lost loved ones in the IRA’s Shankill bombing. The MPs are also to meet with the HET.
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was murdered at Kingsmills, said that Mr Kennedy told MPs how the IRA singled out key family members to undermine the unionist community in south Armagh.
“Danny told them that if there was only one man working a farm in south Armagh, the IRA would shoot him and then the woman of the farm would have to move away.
“We told the MPs we want an inquiry and we want those responsible brought to justice. After 36 years nobody has been held responsible for Kingsmills.”
Willie Frazer, director of FAIR, said the term ‘genocide’ had caused “a heated row”.
He said: “Some of the committee were sympathetic but they had no idea what we were talking about. However, we will want to follow the meeting up to see if we can build some common ground with them.”
He added that the IRA murdered around 390 people in the general south Armagh area.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee declined to make any comment yesterday.
– The book Lost Lives, which chronicles the victims of the Troubles, shows that Co Armagh saw the highest concentration of deaths outside of Belfast during those years. The county saw 111 Army deaths, 114 RUC/UDR deaths and 231 civilian deaths.
31 January 2012
LONDONERS caught up in the IRA’s 1996 bombing of Canary Wharf are to take part in a “March for Justice” for victims of the Kingsmills massacre.
In 1976, the IRA gunned down 10 Protestant workmen on their way home in what the Historical Enquiries Team concluded was a sectarian and savage attack. Nobody has ever been arrested for the killings.
Spokesman for the Docklands Victims Association in London, Jon Ganesh, yesterday confirmed his group would travel to south Armagh to take part in a march retracing the last journey of the Kingsmills victims.
The march will take place on Saturday, February 25.
“We are very much looking forward to being with the Kingsmills families again, who have endured unimaginable suffering as a consequence of their loved ones being brutality murdered by evil men,” Mr Ganesh said.
“We will be with the Kingsmills families in south Armagh and will also be attending the Kingsmills memorial site to place a tribute. It is vital that justice is obtained for those innocent people who were so brutally killed.”
He said that having met the Kingsmills families he has been “overwhelmed by their desire to obtain justice”.
“We in London are with them and will continue to do all we can to gain justice for these families,” he added.
Mr Ganesh was injured in the Canary Wharf bomb and lost two friends.
A colleague in the the Docklands Victims Association, Ihsan Bashir, lost his brother.
Mr Bashir said: “I have enormous sympathy with the Kingsmills victims and other victims of terrorist atrocities. We must ensure that these innocent people, including my brother Inam, are never forgotten. These are all truly innocent people of different religions, creeds and colours who must be supported by us all and our Government.”
Victims group FAIR is organising the march, which will retrace the journey of the murdered workmen from their place of employment in Glennane to the scene of their murder at Kingsmills, just south of Bessbrook.
6 January 2012
ABOUT 40 people turned out on the 36th anniversary of the Kingsmills massacre yesterday at the same place the IRA murdered the 10 Protestant workmen.
The annual memorial, organised by south Armagh victims’ group Fair, was addressed by Pastor Barrie Halliday, Stormont minister and local MLA Danny Kennedy and FAIR director Willie Frazer.
“People want to know why we go on about Kingsmills,” Mr Halliday said. “But this was a very low chapter in this country’s history. During the Troubles people used machine guns in pubs and lobbed grenades into crowds. But on this occasion they lined them up and shot them and then to make sure they put a bullet in the back of their heads. This atrocity stands out in everything that was done during the Troubles.”
And Mr Halliday added: “We want to know the truth about what happened that night and we want justice. Why was nothing ever done about it? The politicians are sitting at ease with those who have knowledge about these murders.
“The Government could not see the finger in front of them. They put us under pressure. They kicked us, pushed us and trampled on us and all FAIR and the Kingsmills families have done is grown stronger together than ever.”
Mr Halliday yesterday launched an appeal for a permanent memorial at the site.
And he called for a Protestant clergyman to retract his claims that it was carried out in retaliation for murders of nationalists the day before. “We now know that Kingsmills was going to happen anyway,” Mr Halliday said. “We did not deserve Kingsmills.”
Mr Kennedy said he was 17 at the time of the murders and that he knew nine of the victims as they bought papers in his family’s newsagents. “They will never be forgotten,” he said. He is pressing for a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny about “the failure of Irish governments in allowing open access to the border for republicans to come and murder their fellow Irishmen”.
Mr Frazer named an individual yesterday he said was responsible for issuing the final bullets to the heads of the victims. The same man had used the same weapon to murder Mr Frazer’s father in 1975 as well as five men at Tullyvallen Orange Hall in the same year, he said. “We are not after revenge. We want justice,” he added.