Coroner tells MoD to 'put up or shut up' over Kingsmill shooting files
A coroner has warned the Ministry of Defence to "put up or shut up" over the disclosure of files to the stalled inquest into the mass sectarian murder of 10 workmen in Northern Ireland.
Brian Sherrard said he would not tolerate prevarication from the MoD after it emerged it was planning to apply for information on its files to be withheld from the probe examining the Kingsmill shootings in 1976.
The Protestant textile workers were shot by republican paramilitaries when their minibus was ambushed outside the south Armagh village on their way home from work.
The court heard the MoD will seek to withhold certain information on the grounds its disclosure could harm the public interest.
Mr Sherrard raised concern about the possibility of another Public Interest Immunity (PII) application, noting he had already dealt with PII issues raised by the MoD last year.
That PII application was handled before the inquest started hearing evidence last May.
Proceedings were dramatically halted only days into the probe to allow police to investigate a new development in the case.
With those enquiries now complete, and no prosecution forthcoming, Mr Sherrard held a preliminary hearing on Wednesday when he set a date of May 15 for the resumption of the full inquest.
The coroner told legal representatives that the MoD had to make its position clear in regard to disclosure of documents and the proposed PII application.
"I am not going to allow this to hold up the resumed inquest," he said. "It's put up or shut up when it comes to PII from the MoD's perspective."
He made clear that the new start date was not negotiable.
"The time has now passed for any kind of prevarication when it comes to PII," he added.
Outlining the MoD position, a lawyer told Mr Sherrard that delays around the PII application were related to "resources" and not any lack of willingness to co-operate with the coroner's court.
Two weeks ago, prosecutors announced that a man whose palm print was allegedly found on a suspected getaway vehicle will not be prosecuted. The apparent print match had caused the inquest adjournment last year.
The region's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there was "insufficient evidence" to offer a reasonable prospect of convicting the individual arrested on suspicion of the murders.
It is understood a lack of Garda and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) records in regard to how the van was forensically handled upon its discovery near Dundalk in the Irish Republic was a factor in the PPS's decision.
The Kingsmill murders are among the most notorious of the Troubles.
Those on board the workers' minibus were asked their religion, and the only Catholic was ordered to run away.
The killers, who had been hidden in the hedges, forced the 11 remaining men to line up outside the van before opening fire. One man - Alan Black - survived despite being shot 18 times.
While the murders have long been linked to the IRA, the organisation itself never admitted responsibility.
Mr Black and relatives of the bereaved were in Belfast Coroner's Court for Wednesday's preliminary hearing.