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Coroner optimistic Kingsmill inquest will be heard in coming months

Published 12/02/2016

Kingsmill survivor Alan Black
Kingsmill survivor Alan Black

A coroner has expressed optimism that an inquest into the murders of 10 Protestant workmen gunned down over 40 years ago can be heard in the coming months.

Brian Sherrard praised the "tremendous work" that had been done by legal parties involved in the Kingsmill massacre case ahead of an anticipated hearing after Easter.

But he warned: "Let's not fall into the trap of unnecessary slippage."

In January 1976 republican gunmen flagged down the workmen's minibus just outside Kingsmill in rural south Armagh.

The textile factory employees were travelling along the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road on their way home from work.

The only Catholic in the minibus was ordered to leave the area, before 11 of his Protestant work colleagues were shot. Only one man - Alan Black - survived the bloodshed.

The attack was claimed by a little-known republican paramilitary group considered to be a front for the supposedly on-ceasefire IRA.

After a long campaign for justice by the families, a new inquest into the Kingsmill killings was ordered by Northern Ireland's Attorney General, John Larkin, in 2013.

Mr Sherrard urged everyone involved in the case to strive to finally get it heard.

"There has been a tremendous amount of progress in the case and we are poised to place this hearing before the court," he said.

Mr Black and relatives of some of the victims were in Laganside Courts in Belfast for the latest pre-inquest hearing.

Mr Sherrard had been asked to review his decision not to afford Mr Black the legal status of an interested party to the case in light of fresh submissions by his legal team.

The coroner said he had examined the additional information provided by the solicitors but still maintained the view that Mr Black did not qualify under criteria set down in legislation.

Mr Sherrard heard that the vast majority of non-sensitive official files had been disclosed to the court and the bulk of the preparatory work had been done security vetting those papers deemed sensitive.

The main task outstanding is legal consideration as to whether applications should be made to withhold any of the sensitive files on the grounds of national security.

Peter Coll, representing the police, cautioned that that exercise could be "extensive". But he indicated it could still be achieved to enable a hearing before the summer.

The inquest is due to be heard at the same time as a Police Ombudsman investigation into the circumstances around the Kingsmill incidents is on-going.

Mr Sherrard acknowledged that future developments in the Ombudsman's probe might have the potential to impact the inquest, but he said he would examine such a scenario if and when it arose.

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