Monday 18 December 2017

Garda files on Kingsmill killings still not given to North probe

The bullet-riddled bus near Kingsmill, Co Armagh, in which 10 Protestant workers were massacred on the way home from work
The bullet-riddled bus near Kingsmill, Co Armagh, in which 10 Protestant workers were massacred on the way home from work

David Young

An ongoing failure by the Garda to disclose files on the Kingsmill massacre, despite a pledge from the Taoiseach, is bordering on disgraceful, Belfast Coroner's Court has been told.

Lawyers for those bereaved by the Kingsmill murders in 1976 heavily criticised officials for not passing over the Garda documents, more than two months after Enda Kenny publicly committed to the handover.

Fiona Doherty QC, who represents the sole survivor of the attack, Alan Black, was scathing in her assessment after the coroner's court was told the state solicitor's office in the Republic had written to say it was not in a position to give a date for disclosure.

"This is a matter of deep regret," she said. "It is bordering on disgraceful that An Taoiseach's commitments have been allowed to fall by the wayside."

She said Mr Kenny's pledge had raised "considerable expectation" among the families. "Those expectations to date have been dashed," she said.

The murders of 10 workmen, which were widely blamed on the IRA though the organisation never admitted responsibility, involved a cross-border element. The vehicle used by the killers was both stolen and then dumped in Co Louth.

The Protestant textile workers were gunned down after a masked gang stopped their minibus close to the Co Armagh village of 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 worker was told to flee the scene while the 11 remaining workers were shot.

No-one has ever been convicted of the murders. The sole survivor Alan Black was in court yesterday.

The Taoiseach had seemed to end months of uncertainty over whether the new inquest would be able to access the potentially crucial Garda papers.

Barrister Neil Rafferty, acting for Beatrice Worton whose son Kenneth was killed, told coroner John Leckey that without the Garda files the inquest could only investigate "half of the story".

"Quite simply, my elderly clients can't reconcile what someone like An Taoiseach says and the correspondence that your officials have received from the solicitors in Dublin.

"We can't reconcile that, at the highest political level, we are told this will receive full co-operation yet when it gets to the official solicitor's offices, not one paper clip, not one sheet of paper, has made its way north."

Mr Rafferty said his clients did not blame Mr Kenny.

"There is the political will at the highest level to co-operate," he said. "But at a lower level there seems to be an inexplicable delay in co-operating."

Mr Leckey, Northern Ireland's senior coroner, is retiring in the autumn but as yet no successor has been appointed to the Kingsmill case.

He told his legal representatives to request the state solicitor's office provide a firm timetable by the month's end.

He said if none was forthcoming, he would consider raising the issue with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers in a bid to resolve it with dialogue between the two governments.

Irish Independent

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