Belfast Telegraph

Pledge on Garda files 'reassuring'

A pledge by the Irish Government to offer full disclosure of Garda files on the sectarian murder of 10 protestant workmen in Co Armagh is "encouraging and reassuring", Northern Ireland's Senior Coroner has said.

John Leckey welcomed a commitment made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that has apparently ended months of uncertainty over whether a new inquest into the deaths at Kingsmill in 1976 would be able to access the potentially crucial papers.

The murders, which were widely blamed on the IRA though the organisation never admitted responsibility, involved a cross-border element, with the vehicle used by the killers both stolen and then dumped in Co Louth.

A preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast also heard confirmation from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that a review of attacks potentially linked to Kingsmill includes one involving IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

McCreesh, who when arrested after a failed attack on British soldiers was in possession of a gun used at Kingsmill, has been the focus of intense public debate in Northern Ireland in recent years after a controversial decision by Newry and Mourne District Council to name a children's play park after him.

In relation to comments made by Mr Kenny when he visited relatives of the Kingsmill victims in Co Armagh, Mr Leckey said: "I have heard what the Taoiseach said yesterday and it's very encouraging that there will be as much co-operation as possible.

"I'm very grateful to the Taoiseach for that indication."

He later added: "I want to repeat how grateful I am for the level of co-operation offered by the Taoiseach in relation to this inquest - it's very reassuring to me and I'm sure the families as well."

Mr Kenny has said the majority of papers will be passed directly to the coroner. He said files that cannot leave the jurisdiction for legal reasons will be available to Mr Leckey in Dublin.

Fresh inquests were ordered by Northern Ireland's attorney general, John Larkin, in 2013 and claims were made during previous preliminary hearings that An Garda Siochana had effectively ignored requests for information on the case.

The textile workers were gunned down after a masked gang stopped their minibus close to the Co Armagh village as they were travelling home from work.

They were forced to line up alongside the van and ordered to divulge their religion. The only Catholic worker was told to flee the scene while the 11 remaining workers were shot.

Just one man, Alan Black, survived despite being hit 18 times. No one has ever been convicted of the murders.

During this afternoon's preliminary hearing in Belfast's coroner's court, Dr Tony McGleenan, representing the PSNI, outlined work being undertaken by the police's legacy support unit to security-vet files related to other, potentially linked, republican paramilitary attacks that took place in the area at the time.

Providing an update on when the documents might be available to the inquest, he confirmed the PSNI was "working on the McCreesh case".

McCreesh, from the village of Camlough near Newry, died on hunger strike in the Maze prison in May 1981 at the age of 24. He was arrested in June 1976 after a failed IRA ambush on an Army patrol in south Armagh.

He was convicted of a range of terrorist offences, though none linked to Kingsmill. The gun he was found with has however been identified as a weapon used at Kingsmill.

While republicans have defended the decision to name the Newry play park after him, critics have highlighted the ballistic link with the Kingsmill murders.

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