Fatal shooting of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill in 1976 ‘an overtly sectarian attack by IRA’

Coroner says there has been no recognition from perpetrators of ‘utter wrongness’ of Co Armagh attack during Troubles

The shooting dead of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill in Co Armagh in 1976 was an “overtly sectarian attack by the IRA”, a coroner has ruled.

Coroner Brian Sherrard delivered his findings in Belfast on Friday in the long-running inquest into the Troubles era deaths. He said the “glaring omission” in the proceedings had been the absence of any evidence from those who caused the attack.

“Unlike other legacy inquests which have examined the actions of the state in directly causing death, those responsible for the deaths at Kingsmill have not given an account either personally or through any organisation or any political party,” he said.

“Numerous calls to assist and provide answers were met with silence. Accordingly the inquest did not receive disclosure from any individual concerned in the attack, nor their organisation, nor their political representatives although expert evidence was given that records may well exist.”

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The massacre took place on January 5th, 1976 near the village of Kingsmill. Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying 11 Protestant workmen, lined them up alongside it and shot them. Only one victim, Alan Black, survived despite having been shot 18 times.

John Bryans, James McWhirter, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Reginald Chapman, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, Robert Chambers, Robert Walker and Kenneth Worton died in the massacre.

Mr Sherrard said there had been no recognition from the perpetrators of the “utter wrongness” of the attack.

“Neither did the inquest hear evidence from the perpetrators regarding matters such as the motivation for the attack, its planning and personnel and its execution,” he said. “There has been no recognition by any perpetrator or their organisation or political representatives as to the utter wrongness of the attack which served to end the lives of 10 men and to devastate the lives of untold others.”

He said those responsible for were “uninterested in transparency” concerning the attack.

“Many decades have now passed since the atrocity and no recognised organisation, much less any individual has admitted responsibility for it,” he said.

“The optimistic notion that admissions could spread from arrests without evidence has been tested now by time. Neither the organisation nor the individuals responsible have any intention of explaining it, much less being held to account.”

Mr Sherrard said the notion that Captain Robert Nairac infiltrated the IRA and was involved in the Kingsmill massacre is “utter fantasy”.

“The rumours are likely to have arisen due to the fact that the terrorist who brought the minibus to a stop had an English accent, Captain Nairac’s reputation as a soldier who adopted unorthodox strategies in combating terrorism in Northern Ireland and his own tragic murder by the IRA,” he said.

“In the intervening decades the absence of publicly available and reliable information concerning both the Kingsmill deaths and Captain Nairac’s whereabouts has fuelled rumours.”

The attack at Kingsmill had been claimed by a group calling itself the South Armagh Republican Action Force.

The coroner outlined extensive ballistics evidence to Belfast Coroner’s Court linking the weapons used at Kingsmill to a series of attacks carried out by the IRA. He said the “unassailable” evidence showed that the guns fired at Kingsmill were the “exclusive property” of the IRA.

He dismissed any suggestion that perpetrators were not pursued in order to protect an IRA informant, describing it as “unhelpful conspiracy theorising”.

“Such an assertion is entirely without foundation,” he said.

Two individuals identified as suspects in the Kingsmill attack were later given contentious so-called comfort letters issued by the UK government to ‘On the Run’ republican suspects during the peace process.

Mr Sherrard insisted that these letters had not impeded the inquest, as he highlighted that no firm evidence connecting the individuals to the shootings had ever emerged. – PA

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