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NIO rejects Kingsmills massacre 'snub' claim

The Secretary of State cancelled a meeting with the families of the Kingsmills massacre as she had to make an urgent statement about the Haass talks in Parliament, officials have said.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) statement followed criticism of Theresa Villiers by the families' representative Danny Kennedy MLA, who said the meetings had been arranged with some difficulty to fit in with her diary.

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

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

But the NIO has hit back after the criticism, saying that Mr Kennedy had previously cancelled three arranged meetings.

"The Secretary of State's first priority is with victims and their families. She is conscious of the terrible loss suffered by so many across Northern Ireland," said an NIO spokeswoman yesterday.

"She is disappointed today's meeting had to be postponed due to an urgent statement in Parliament on Northern Ireland. She hopes she can meet them soon."

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