The Kingsmills families are asking for clarity on alleged talks between PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris and Dublin about files on the IRA suspects.
A delegation from Markethill victims’ group FAIR met the Irish Department of Justice (IDOJ) this week to ask why no documents have been released to the Belfast inquest, despite increasingly frustrated public appeals by senior Northern Ireland coroner John Leckey over the past year.
The IDOJ told the FAIR delegation that PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris has been in extended talks with them about Kingsmills documents and the Belfast inquest “to avoid jeopardising any possible future trials”.
But Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmills and who was part of the delegation, did not find that a credible explanation.
He is concerned about the PSNI leading extended talks with Dublin while the coroner’s frustration has been growing for a year over the lack of disclosure to the inquest.
A source close to the families said the gardai documents should be supplied immediately to the coroner and that it is his responsibility – not the PSNI’s – to censor them to protect individuals.
When the News Letter put the Kingsmills families’ concerns to the police, the Deputy Chief Constable responded in a statement that the PSNI is “fully engaged with the coroner” in regards to its statutory responsibilities. He added that the PSNI would propose censorship of documents to the coroner in line with the legal rights to life or privacy.
“It is a matter for the coroner whether he agrees to implement those redactions, having examined the materials in the unredacted [uncensored] form,” Mr Harris said.
“Any suggestion that PSNI has been in discussion with the Irish authorities around the disclosure, or not, of documents is without foundation.”
However, when asked what exactly Mr Harris has been in talks with Dublin about regarding Kingsmills, the PSNI declined to clarify.
But Mr Worton said that he remained wary of what is going on. He said: “We believe Dublin when it tells us it is in ongoing talks with the PSNI about Kingsmills.”
Newry and Armagh Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said: “It is absolutely essential that the coroner gets the documents he is asking for and that there is clarity on what discussions have been taking place between the PSNI and security authorities in the Republic of Ireland.”
A source close to the families said it is “notable” that talks with Dublin are being handled by the Deputy Chief Constable and not PSNI Crime Operations.
“Perhaps there are concerns about information coming out that might impact the peace process,” he said.
Two of the suspects hold so-called On-The-Run letters from government. Sole survivor Alan Black believes state agents may have been involved in the IRA attack.
The IDOJ and the coroner declined to comment.
A victims’ parade in Dublin on March 28 was cancelled after the IDOJ assured FAIR it will release files in time for the next preliminary inquest hearing on March 27.