Bea Worton, the last surviving mother of ten civilians gunned down by the IRA in the Kingsmills Massacre, has died peacefully in hospital, aged 91.
She was surrounded by her family as she passed away after a short illness.
Kenneth would have mixed with anybody, in fact his best pals were all Catholics. He loved everybody.Bea Worton speaking of her son who was murdered in the Kingsmills Massacre
The latter life of the Bessbrook great-great-grandmother was much shaped by the massacre. Ten Protestant workmen were taken out of their minibus by the IRA in 1976 near the south Armagh village of Kingsmills as they travelled home from work in 1976. In what is sometimes referred to as ‘the Protestant Bloody Sunday’, they were then gunned down by the side of the road. Her son Kenneth was one of those killed.
She played a key role in securing a legacy inquest for the atrocity and forced the Equality Commission and Newry Mourne and Down District Council to back down in a legal challenge over the atrocity.
Victims Campaigner Kenny Donaldson, of the South East Fermanagh Foundation, paid tribute to Mrs Worton.
“Bea Worton carried her pain with immense dignity down the years, she battled long and hard for justice and she was a constant in standing up for what is right - her tenacious spirit was admired by very many people,” he said.
“Her name is synonymous with the Newry Playpark issue, named after convicted terrorist Raymond McCreesh, and where she took on the local Council in the Courts and what’s more, defeated them”.
“Bea was a regular attendant at the Kingsmills inquest, she craved justice and accountability for the sectarian motivated murder of her son, Kenneth, and nine other innocents by the Provisional IRA. Sadly she passes not having seen the end of the inquest.
“SEFF’s prayers are with the Worton family as they grieve the loss of a special lady, someone who inspired and also plucked the consciences of those who should know better and who must do better.”
Mrs was one of the relatives who played a key role in pressing for a legacy inquest into the shootings, which has been running since 2016.
The main delay has been with the Irish authorities providing an account of their insight into the atrocity.
Mrs Worton won a legal challenge against the Equality Commission and Newry Mourne and Down District Council after they allowed a council playground in Newry to be named after one of the men she believed was responsible for her son’s murder.
Convicted IRA man Raymond McCreesh was arrested several months after the Kingsmills Massacre with one of the weapons used in the atrocity.
In 2016 the High Court found in her favour and stayed her legal action to allow the council and Equality Commission space to rectify the name of the playground. The council then put it up for sale.
Speaking to the Kingsmills inquest, Mrs Worton said that those responsible for the massacre should be named.
“I want to see them all named,” she said.
“Just to see who we have been mixing with all these years.”
Her son was 24 when he died.
“We always lived with our neighbours, I went to a mixed school, I am 90 and we got on well.
“Kenneth would have mixed with anybody, in fact his best pals were all Catholics.
“He loved everybody.”
The textile factory workers were ambushed as they travelled along the Whitecross to Bessbrook road on January 5 1976, one of the darkest years of the Troubles. Republicans claimed it has been in response to the loyalist murders of several members of the Reavey family nearby only 24 hours beforehand. But branding the atrocity “sectarian savagery” the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded that the massacre would have required much longer term planning to execute and could not have been a direct reprisal. Although never claimed by the IRA, HET said all the weapons had an IRA ballistic history and unequivocally blamed that group.
Mrs Worton’s funeral will take place at 2pm in First Presbyterian Church Upper, Markethill, Co Armagh. The funeral will leave the family home at Gosford Gardens at 1:30pm.