The inquest for the Kingsmills massacre has reopened with a lawyer for families of the deceased accusing the Garda of “a diet of obstruction and a failure to assist the legacy process”.
Ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the IRA as they made their way home from work in a minibus near Kingsmills in south Armagh in January 1976.
The inquest opened on May 23, 2016 but adjourned a month later when the PSNI matched a palm print on the getaway minibus. In February the PPS said it would not prosecute the suspect as the minibus could not be linked to the crime scene.
Mr Alan Kane QC for the families opened proceedings yesterday, citing concern about the response from the Garda’s lawyer – the chief state solicitor in Dublin – to the latest request by the Belfast coroner for full disclosure on southern files on the atrocity.
Mr Kane said Dublin had raised “strange and amazing points” and despite writing that it was “anxious to cooperate” he said, then referred to the updated scope of the inquest, which the chief state solicitor said it has “now had sight of for the first time”.
The Garda lawyer advised the inquest that they would now have to consider their “legal and constitutional position” to be able to respond, which Mr Kane said they had already been saying “for months and months and months”.
“This is the latest helping in a diet of obstruction by the Garda and a failure to assist the legacy process in Northern Ireland into the deaths of 10 people,” he added.
The families were now faced with this “insulting letter” to say that cooperation with the inquest is continuing: “However the content of this letter is like a slimming biscuit – full of air but with no substance”.
Sean Doran QC for the coroner, confirmed that Dublin did not have sight of the updated scope for the inquest until last month.
However, Coroner Judge Brian Sherrard added that his representatives had attended a series of meetings with the chief state solicitor.
“I don’t think there has been any confusion about the purpose of the inquest,” the coroner added.
There was no doubt that there was an Irish dimension to the inquest and he was “accordingly very concerned” about the points raised.
He added: “I will not close the inquest until I am satisfied that all materials I believe should be before the court are before the court.”
An anonymous detective from PSNI Crime Operations also gave evidence from behind a screen on a series of intelligence reports which identified up to 20 suspects, referred to in court using codes.
One report said S37 was “a big man in the Provisional IRA in Dundalk” although S91 “was the man in charge” of the massacre. “He was a bit older then the others and speaks with a very funny accent, you would think he was English.”
Mr Doran noted that survivor Alan Black said the victims’ minibus had been stopped by a man who appeared to have an English accent.
The QC said one report said police had information about a planned attack but it only came in after the shootings had taken place.
Intelligence reports suggested two different IRA groups were involved in the attack, one from Omeath-Forkill and the other from the Co Louth-Crossmaglen area.
Some reports suggested one faction broke away from the IRA, citing “non-retaliation” for the murder of Catholics, thus forming the South Armagh Reaction Force/Group [SARF/G], the name used to claim responsibility for Kingsmills.
One report said of “a well known IRA man” and Co Armagh suspect, S114: “He has his own group and is not really one of the pros [Provisional IRA]. The pros accept him as he is too powerful to buck as everyone looks up to him.” If his group’s activities cause no outcry they belong to the IRA but if they do, then they are claimed by SARF/G, the report claimed.
But the last report coroner’s QC Sean Doran cited said of the title SARF/G that “this is considered a cover name for PIRA”.