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Kingsmills massacre victims had considered route change

By Cate McCurry

Published 25/05/2016

Victims' relatives, May Quinn (left) and Shirley Leeman arrive for the second day of the inquest
Victims' relatives, May Quinn (left) and Shirley Leeman arrive for the second day of the inquest

The group of workmen killed in the Kingsmills massacre had discussed changing their usual route home just hours before their minibus was ambushed by the IRA.

The second day of the inquest into the January 1976 atrocity heard how the victims' families have fought for truth and justice over the past 18 years.

May Quinn, the sister of victim Robert Walker (46), revealed on Tuesday how on the day of the attack the men talked about using an alternative route following the murders of six Catholics from two families in Whitecross and Ballydougan the night before.

More: It took me 40 years to weep for my son, reveals elderly mother of slain workman

However, the group decided against it, satisfied that they were not be in danger.

"It was a one-off conversation, but he (Robert) never thought there was any threat," she said.

Mrs Quinn, who is a member of victims group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair), said she wanted those responsible for her brother's death "named and shamed".

"I would rather they come clean and admitted it to us," she added.

"I want them named and shamed - that's what we want."

She described her brother, who she knew as Bobby, as a "very kind and thoughtful" man who "never stopped working".

She held back tears as she described the families' long fight for a new inquest.

"We want justice and the truth, which we hope to get. Our family was heartbroken.

"My father died within the year just before Christmas when the first anniversary was coming up," she said.

Shirley Norris, daughter of victim Joseph Lemmon (46), told the inquest she had posted her wedding invitations in the hours before her father's murder.

She recalled how he affectionately referred to her as "Curly", and that she was the closest to him.

"My dad was everything. He was looking forward to giving me away," she said.

"His grandchildren were out getting their flowergirl dresses that day and were waiting patiently for him to come home so they could show him the dresses.

"He was a gentle giant and would hurt no one. He didn't deserve to go the way he did.

"We want to know the truth. That's all we want.

"I believe he's not resting in peace until we know the truth."

Barrister Neil Rafferty, who is representing several families of the victims, highlighted a recent newspaper interview with Sean O'Callaghan - a former high-level Garda agent in the IRA - in which he said he would give evidence.

Mr Rafferty read out quotes from the interview in which Mr O'Callaghan said that while he "did not have first-hand knowledge of the attack" he would be "happy to help the inquest".

"He said he left the IRA the year before the attack, adding that what he knew mostly came from (IRA Army Council member) Seamus Twomey and other senior republicans," Mr Rafferty said.

"He said he will wait for someone to contact him officially and explain what it is they want him to do.

"You have heard the evidence of three women today and two of them have asked why this happened and why they wanted to murder these men.

"While he may have no direct knowledge, he's quite clear he's in the position of first-hand hearsay.

"It seems quite clear that anyone with information should come forward."

Senior Coroner Brian Sherrard said he would instruct the coroner investigator to contact Mr O'Callaghan by the end of this week to ascertain whether he would be a useful witness in the inquest.

Belfast Telegraph

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