Belfast Telegraph

Kingsmills massacre 'kick in teeth' as Theresa Villiers cancels meeting with families

By Rebecca Black

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has been strongly criticised after she again cancelled an appointment to meet with the families of the Kingsmills massacre.

Ms Villiers was due to meet some of the families of 10 Protestant men killed by the IRA as they returned from work in a minibus in south Armagh in 1976.

UUP minister Danny Kennedy said it was the second meeting with the Kingsmills families in six months that she has postponed. He pointed out that the meetings had been arranged with some difficulty to fit in with her diary.

The 38th anniversary of the atrocity – in which only two men survived – was marked on Sunday with a service at the scene close to Bessbrook.

Mr Kennedy said: "I'm disappointed, and have conveyed that to the Secretary of State's office.

"They have been assured that a new date for the meeting will be identified as soon as possible."

Colin Wharton, whose brother Kenneth (24) was one of those killed at Kingsmills, said the experience had been hurtful. "Maybe one cancellation wouldn't be so bad, that can be an oversight, but when it is two or three like this it is harder to take," he said.

"We are not expecting much but if you don't chase up these things and go to these things you don't get listened to."

Victims campaigner Willie Frazer said that the families had been feeling more positive recently that they were not being ignored, but he said that the cancellation by Ms Villiers, which was heard about on Monday, was a "kick in the teeth" to the families.

He said that appointments for the doctor had been cancelled and days booked off work to attend the meeting scheduled for today, which had been organised by Mr Kennedy.

Mr Wharton added that the families had been buoyed by comments of Attorney General John Larkin reported last week about how the Kingsmills workmen protected the only Catholic man on the bus, fearing that it was loyalist terrorists who had pulled them over.

But, as it turned out, it was the IRA, and they told the Catholic man to flee before opening fire on his Protestant colleagues.

Mr Larkin commented that the sort of spirit shown by the workmen trying to protect their colleague "exemplifies the kind of factors that stopped us becoming like Bosnia".

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said the meeting had to be postponed due to Parliamentary business.

BACKGROUND

The murder of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmills was one of the most shocking incidents of the Troubles. They had been returning home to Bessbrook on January 5, 1976 when their bus was pulled over by men in military-type uniform.

As they were lined up, gunmen demanded to know if any of the workmen were Catholics.

Fearing it was loyalist terrorists, they tried to conceal the one Catholic man. However, the man stepped forward and was then told to "get down the road and don't look back".

The terrorists then opened fired on the remaining 11 men. Only Alan Black survived the actual shooting despite being hit 18 times. No one has been convicted of the murders.

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