Kingsmills inquest: I will give evidence, says top Garda IRA agent

The Kingsmills memorial for the 10 murdered workmen in Bessbrook
The Kingsmills memorial for the 10 murdered workmen in Bessbrook

Sean O’Callaghan – a former high-level Garda agent in the IRA – has told the News Letter he will give evidence to the legacy inquest for the Kingsmills massacre, which opens on Monday morning in Belfast.

It is understood it will be the first legacy inquest where Garda have been asked to give evidence on their track record during the Troubles.

The bullet-riddled minibus in which the 10 murdered workers were travelling

The bullet-riddled minibus in which the 10 murdered workers were travelling

In an IRA operation planned and executed from Co Louth in 1976, 10 Protestant civilians were murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh as they travelled home from work.

They were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.

Although it is still widely believed the massacre was in revenge for five UVF murders the day before, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded that Kingsmills was “clearly a pre-planned attack on a target that had been pre-selected and researched some time before”.

Last week a barrister for the Kingsmills families said he would be inviting Mr O’Callaghan – the Garda’s most senior agent within the PIRA – to give evidence.

Mr O’Callaghan told the News Letter he did not have first-hand knowledge of the Kingsmills attack, but would be “happy to help” the legacy inquest, which may last for up to six weeks.

He had resigned from the IRA the year before the Kingsmills massacre, he said, adding that “what I know mostly came from [Army Council member] Seamus Twomey who ordered it” and another senior republican.

“I will wait for someone to contact me officially and explain what it is they want me to do,” he said.

It is understood Mr O’Callaghan will be asked to detail who the IRA leadership was in 1976, how the attack would have been authorised, and IRA policy on purely sectarian murders.

The Northern Ireland Office is due to release 1,300 pages of intelligence files, while the corresponding Garda file is reported to be “thin” and mainly newspaper clippings.

An Garda Siochana has been asked by the Coroner to send a witness to detail what actions it took after the murders; it is the first legacy inquest where such a Garda representative will testify.

Other witnesses will include:

• Professor of politics Henry Patterson, author of ‘Ireland’s Violent Frontier’ who will give evidence about the impact of the border on the RUC investigation;

• The RUC officer in charge of the original investigation will speak about his work and the IRA suspects;

• HET witnesses who in 2011 identified the IRA as responsible for the attack and who revealed a number of suspects were on-the-run in the Irish Republic;

• A PSNI intelligence witness who carried out a major analysis on Kingsmills links with other IRA murders, such as the Tullyvallen massacre.

The inquest will also examine the fact that two suspects have On-The-Run (OTR) letters – and concerns from survivor Alan Black that the authorities may have been protecting an IRA informer.