Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Apology over memorial removal order

Planners issued removal order for monument commemorating Kingsmills massacre victims

Alex Attwood said an enforcement notice claiming the 'unauthorised' memorial should be removed by July 9 was not sent with his authority

The Environment Minister has apologised after a letter demanding the removal of a memorial for IRA murder victims was issued by planners.

The monument commemorating 10 Protestant workmen shot dead in the 1976 Kingsmills massacre near Bessbrook, Co Armagh, is due to be officially unveiled next month.

Alex Attwood said an enforcement notice claiming the "unauthorised" memorial should be removed by July 9 was not sent with his authority.

"That letter should not have been issued," the minister said.

"I want to apologise on behalf of the planning system that a letter was issued in the circumstances that have arisen."

Mr Attwood also said he should have been consulted before any action was taken.

He added: "I am very aware that when you are dealing with the issues of the past you have to deal with them as sensitively as we can and that you can't deal with these issues in isolation. That is why when it comes to memorials, be it the one at Kingsmills or republican memorials or others, I want these matters referred to me so that I can exercise my judgment.

"In this instance the planning service went ahead of itself and issued this enforcement letter. It should not have happened."

The 10 textile workers were shot dead after their minibus was stopped at an IRA road block on the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road on January 5, 1976.

The only Catholic on board was ordered to flee while 11 of his colleagues were systematically gunned down by a gang of up to a dozen IRA men. Alan Black, who was hit 18 times, was the sole survivor of the attack which was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.

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