Belfast Telegraph

Kingsmills massacre: Chilling chapter in our dark and bloody past

BY JOANNE FLEMING

They were among the most shocking deaths of the Troubles.

The murder of 10 innocent workmen, lined up outside their minibus and shot, became known as the Kingsmills massacre.

Like other such massacres of the Troubles, no one has ever been brought to justice.

On the night of January 5, 1976, the group of textile workers had been travelling home from work in the heart of rural Co Armagh.

On this dark, rainy night near the village of Bessbrook, a man could be seen flashing a torch in the road ahead of them.

The emergence of 11 other armed men from the hedges made them think they had been stopped by the Army.

It soon became clear, however, that these men were masked and had deadly intentions.

The workmen were ordered out of their vehicle, lined up and forced to reveal their religion.

There was only one Catholic on the bus at this stage of the journey.

He was identified and ordered away from his Protestant workmates.

The lead gunman spoke one other word – "Right" – and the shooting began.

Out of the 11 men targeted, only Alan Black survived the massacre, despite having 18 gunshot wounds.

Joseph Lemmon, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Kenneth Worton, James McWhirter, Robert Chambers, John McConville, John Bryans, Robert Freeburn and Robert Walker all died at the scene.

Nine of the dead were from the village of Bessbrook, while the bus driver, Robert Walker, was from nearby Mountnorris.

Two days after the massacre Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the SAS was being moved into south Armagh.

The IRA was supposed to be on ceasefire at the time and the South Armagh Republican Action Force claimed the deaths.

But in June 2011 a report by the Historical Enquiries Team found that the IRA was responsible.

The families then called for a public inquiry into the killings.

At the time, Secretary of State Owen Paterson (left) said he was not prepared to intervene to call on the PSNI to reopen its investigation into the murders.

The families' campaign continued.

In September 2012 relatives of Kingsmills massacre victims sought an apology from Taoiseach Enda Kenny for what they describe as the Irish Republic's "blatant inaction" over the killings.

Mr Kenny told them he could not apologise for IRA actions.

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