Belfast Telegraph

Roadside memorial for Kingsmill victims 40 years after massacre

By Cate McCurry

A memorial service has been held at the roadside in south Armagh on the spot where 10 Protestant workmen were murdered in a sectarian atrocity four decades ago.

Victims' families, friends, campaigners and politicians gathered to pay tribute to the textile workers on the 40th anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

The factory workers were ambushed as they travelled along the Whitecross to Bessbrook road in rural south Armagh on January 5, 1976, one of the worst years of the Troubles.

Their minibus was stopped and those on board were asked their religion. The only Catholic on board was ordered to flee as the gunmen, who had been hidden in the hedges, opened fire on his 11 colleagues.

Around 80 people gathered to mark the anniversary including the sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black (72). A short act of remembrance was conducted by Pastor Barry Halliday followed by a minute's silence while the families also laid wreaths in memory of their loved ones.

Campaigners and politicians spoke during the service including Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy. Mr Kennedy, who is from Bessbrook, described it as a "solemn service".

"There was special reflection because it's a milestone and a landmark anniversary. Forty years is a very long time," he said.

"My sense of the day was of great sadness, even after 40 years and with the coroner's inquest pending in the early part of this year, despite all of that there is great sadness that there has not been justice seen to be delivered to the Kingsmill families.

"I think the families are hopeful that we can get more information from the relevant authorities, both from the security authorities in Northern Ireland and those in the Republic.

"People are still yearning and wanting the truth and seeking a reassurance that they will have access to the truth."

The 10 men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.

The Kingsmill shootings happened a day after the Glenanne Gang, a notorious loyalist murder squad, gunned down six Catholics from two families during a killing spree in Co Armagh.

The IRA, which was supposed to be on ceasefire, never admitted its involvement in Kingsmill and the murders were claimed by the little-known South Armagh Republican Action Force.

However, in June 2011, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found that the IRA was responsible and said the men were targeted because of their religion.

No one has ever been convicted for the Kingsmill attack, leaving relatives of those killed feeling robbed of justice and "shunned" by the authorities.

The original inquest held in 1978 lasted just 30 minutes and recorded an open verdict, adding to their distress. In 2013 Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin ordered a fresh probe. Preliminary proceedings have already begun and at least three weeks have been set aside for a new hearing in April.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph