Belfast Telegraph

McElduff has got away with sick Kingsmill insult, insist families

Decision not to prosecute ex-Sinn Fein MP adds insult to injury, say relatives

By Victoria Leonard

The brother of a man murdered in the Kingsmill massacre has claimed that former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff has "got away with dancing on the graves of the victims".

It follows a decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) not to prosecute Mr McElduff over a video posted on social media in which he posed with a loaf of Kingsmill-branded bread on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the IRA atrocity.

The video was reported to police, who later questioned Mr McElduff and sent a file for consideration by prosecutors.

The PPS also announced yesterday that it had decided against prosecuting Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O'Muilleoir, who shared the video when it was published on Twitter on January 5.

PPS assistant director Martin Hardy acknowledged the hurt the video had caused, but said the evidence provided by police had been "insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction".

Last night Colin Worton (58), whose brother Kenneth was among the dead, said victims' families were "disappointed but not shocked" by the PPS decisions.

"Barry McElduff is only the last of a long line of people that have escaped justice," he said.

"He has got away with dancing on the graves of Kingsmill victims."

Mr McElduff resigned as West Tyrone MP in January after families of some of the 10 Protestant workmen shot dead in 1976 expressed outrage at the video.

He maintained he had not meant the clip as a reference to the murders, and was unaware he had posted it on the 42nd anniversary of the attack.

However, Mr McElduff, who had already been suspended by Sinn Fein for three months when he announced his resignation, acknowledged the post had caused unintentional hurt to the Kingsmill families.

Explaining the PPS's decision not to prosecute, Mr Hardy said: "We have given detailed consideration to the evidence provided by police in respect of the two men reported and have concluded that it is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against either for any offence.

"The PPS acknowledges the content of the video posted on the anniversary of the Kingsmill murders caused a great deal of hurt to those directly affected by the atrocity and many others in the wider community.

"We have written to the next of kin of the Kingsmill victims, and the attack's survivor, to explain in detail the rationale for the decision.

"Whilst we recognise the outcome is disappointing to those offended by the content and timing of the video, we can offer assurance that these decisions were reached only after the most careful examination of all evidence and information available."

In Mr McElduff's case the PPS said the prosecution team had considered a range of evidence, including CCTV footage from the retail premises where the incident was filmed, as well as the video posted on Twitter.

They revealed that a potential prosecution was considered under Section 127 (1) of the Communications Act 2003 and Article 9 (1) of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. However, the test for prosecution was not met.

In relation to Mr O Muilleoir, the PPS said a potential prosecution was considered under Section 127 (1) of the Communications Act and whether the sharing of the video met the offence of sending a grossly offensive message by means of an electronic communications network or any other offence.

Again, the test for prosecution was not met.

In every case it considers the PPS must apply the test for prosecution to make a decision. This has two elements and involves assessing whether the available evidence provides a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether prosecution is in the public interest.

Mr Worton compared Mr McElduff's actions in posing with the loaf to those of a group of men who dressed up as members of the Ku Klux Klan outside an Islamic prayer house in Newtownards at the weekend.

"They are both equally sick," said Mr Worton, whose brother Kenneth was just 24 when he lost his life at Kingsmill.

"It is the same sort of thing -anything that causes someone to feel hurt, damaged or vulnerable."

He added: "What Barry McElduff did was hugely hurtful at the time, especially on the anniversary. The mask slipped. This sends out a message that no matter what you do concerning Kingsmill, nothing is going to go anywhere."

Mr Worton said he had received a letter from the PPS yesterday morning, but could not read beyond the "bad news on the first page".

"It's sad, but that's the way things are. We are disappointed, but not shocked," he said. "I would have been more shocked if they had decided to prosecute. We have no confidence left."

Mr Worton said that his 91-year-old mother Bea, who lost her son 42 years ago, shared his feelings.

"Most of the victims came back to me to say they weren't shocked," he added.

"We still hope, but the hope was a rope, and now we're just left holding onto a thread. I shudder to think what my brother would have thought of this.

"I was just 15 when he died.

"I think if it had been me who was killed he would still be fighting to get justice."

Mr Worton said he believed that Mr O Muilleoir, who is MLA for South Belfast, was "equally to blame", as he shared the video.

Victims campaigner Willie Frazer said relatives were "disgusted" by the PPS decisions.

Announcing his resignation in January, Mr McElduff said his greatest regret was the "deep and unnecessary hurt" his video had caused the Kingsmill families.

Mr O Muilleoir apologised for retweeting the video and retracted the retweet.

He said at the time the retweet was a mistake and he would not have promoted it had he realised the connection to the Kingsmill massacre.

In a statement yesterday, Mr McElduff's solicitor said his client was "satisfied" with the PPS decision yesterday.

He said: "My client is satisfied with the decision of the PPS that there shall be no further action following the unfortunate circumstances of January 5, 2018.

"As he did from the outset, Barry stated that any upset caused was unintentional. He apologised for his actions, and his subsequent resignation from his position as Sinn Fein MP was with a view to accepting responsibility for his actions.

"Today's decision by the PPS can perhaps now draw a line under the situation."

Posting on Twitter yesterday, Mr McElduff's daughter Niamh wrote: "At long last. Abuse, death threats, fear and desecration of our relatives' graves, character assassination and resignation as a result of a terrible accident.

"All undeserved. Still thinking of the families that elements of the media and political unionism were happy to use for their own ends."

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