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Garda could be present at inquest into Kingsmill if law changed

By Michael McHugh

New legislation being considered in the Republic would allow Irish police to appear before the inquest into the IRA's Kingsmill massacre, a lawyer has said.

A coroner in Northern Ireland is seeking intelligence and other information held by the Garda about the sectarian shooting dead of 10 Protestant workmen by republicans in south Armagh in 1976.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan cannot direct an officer to give evidence to the inquest, which is due to resume next month, without new legislation.

Sean Doran QC said: "The attendance of a garda at legal proceedings outside the jurisdiction would have to be done properly under the auspices of a direction by the Commissioner, but the legal authority to give such a direction is absent and that is the reason why legislation is being considered to deal with this particular issue."

Coroner Brian Sherrard said there appeared to be a blockage to a Garda witness attending voluntarily.

Legal counsel for relatives of the dead said the attack began with the hijacking of a vehicle and the escape of the gunmen into the Republic, and it was only humane that a garda should appear to guide the inquest through the documents.

The textile workers were travelling home from work when their minibus was ambushed.

They were asked their religion, then lined up on a country road and shot dead in a sectarian attack blamed on the IRA. Alan Black survived despite being hit 18 times.

Relatives of those killed want details from the Garda about weapons used, intelligence and the getaway van employed by the gunmen. They have accused the southern authorities of only paying "lip service" to their concerns.

The coroner is seeking material held in the Republic relating to Kingsmill and is to make a formal request within days.

He is considering calling a witness from the Garda to help make sense of any documents he receives and shed light on the force's methodology during the period in question.

He acknowledged the Garda's willingness to help and said he did not fully understand the reason why the legal framework precluded an Irish police officer appearing voluntarily.

Alan Kane QC, for some of the families, said: "After all these years, the least that these relatives can expect is ordinary decency and humane co-operation by volunteering a witness."

He also accused the Irish authorities of creating a roadblock to scrutiny of any action.

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