Coroner’s optimism over date for Kingsmills inquest

The Kingsmills memorial to the dead workmen in Bessbrook
The Kingsmills memorial to the dead workmen in Bessbrook

A coroner has expressed optimism that an inquest into the Kingsmills massacre can be heard in the coming months.

Brian Sherrard praised the “tremendous work” that had been done by legal parties involved in the case ahead of an anticipated hearing after Easter.

Alan Black

Alan Black

But he warned: “Let’s not fall into the trap of unnecessary slippage.”

In January 1976 republican gunmen flagged down a workmen’s minibus just outside Kingsmills in rural south Armagh.

The textile factory employees were travelling along the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road on their way home from work.

The only Catholic in the minibus was ordered to leave the area, before 11 of his Protestant work colleagues were shot.

Only one man – Alan Black – survived the bloodshed.

The attack was claimed by a little-known republican paramilitary group considered to be a front for the supposedly on-ceasefire IRA.

After a long campaign for justice by the families, a new inquest into the Kingsmills killings was ordered by the Attorney General, John Larkin, in 2013.

“There has been a tremendous amount of progress in the case and we are poised to place this hearing before the court,” he said.

Mr Black and relatives of some of the victims were in Laganside Courts in Belfast for the latest pre-inquest hearing.

Mr Sherrard had been asked to review his decision not to afford Mr Black the legal status of an interested party to the case in light of fresh submissions by his legal team.

The inquest is due to be heard at the same time as a Police Ombudsman investigation into the circumstances around the Kingsmills attack is ongoing.

Mr Sherrard acknowledged that future developments in the ombudsman’s probe might have the potential to impact the inquest, but he said he would examine such a scenario if and when it arose.