Next week marks 40 years to the day since what many unionists remember as ‘the Protestant Bloody Sunday’.
Ten Protestant civilian men were taken out of their minibus as they travelled home from work on January 5 1976, and were mown down at Kingsmills in south Armagh.
The attack was claimed by ‘the Catholic Reaction Force’; however, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) more recently pointed the finger squarely at the IRA.
The day before the shootings Catholic brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey were shot dead in their home at Whitecross in south Armagh by the UVF. Hours later the UVF claimed three more Catholic lives – all of them SDLP members – Barry and Declan O’Dowd and their uncle Joe at a family gathering in Lurgan.
HET noted the murders occurred during a period of spiralling sectarian violence. Two of the same weapons used at Kingsmills were used to murder five men at Tullyvallen Orange Hall five months earlier.
Although it is still widely believed the Kingsmills massacre was carried out in revenge for the Reavey and O’Dowd murders, HET pointed out that the Kingsmills operation required far too much organisation to have been planned and executed in less than 24 hours, and that the UVF murders the day before had simply been “the catalyst”.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said: “The time of the killings was one in which many people were fearful for their lives. The Reavey, O’Dowd and Kingsmills killings were horrific and unjustified by any measure or means.”
Those killed were simply people trying to live their lives “going about their day to day business before being ruthlessly cut down by paramilitary organisations,” he added.
“All of these killings greatly undermined the struggle for peace and continue to frustrate the need for truth about the past.
“The conclusions reached by consecutive Stormont House Agreements have denied victims the truth about the past.”
If society is to move on we must have the full undisclosed truth about all killings, he added.