Kingsmills inquest '˜about truth not punishment'

A new inquest into the massacre of 10 workmen in Northern Ireland 40 years ago is the last chance for closure, the sole survivor of the IRA attack has said.

Alan Black was the only one of the 11 men targeted by the gunmen to survive the attack in January 1976
Alan Black was the only one of the 11 men targeted by the gunmen to survive the attack in January 1976

Alan Black hopes those involved in the Kingsmills killings will come forward before the case is opened next month.

He said: “It has gone past the point of calling for anyone to be punished. This is about getting to the truth.

“It has been like a raw wound for 40 years and this is about bringing some form of comfort to the families.”

The comments come as a coroner launched a public appeal for information.

Judge Brian Sherrard is particularly keen to hear from anyone who was arrested or suspected of involvement in the shootings.

Mr Black, now 72, added: “The gunmen were probably around the same age as myself, so we are now looking at our own mortality.

“You would want to ease your own conscience before passing on.”

The textile factory workers were ambushed as they travelled along the Whitecross to Bessbrook road in rural south Armagh on January 5 1976 – one of the worst years of the Troubles.

Their minibus was stopped and those on board were asked their religion.

The only Catholic on board was ordered to flee as the gunmen, who had been hidden in the hedges, opened fire on 11 of his Protestant colleagues.

The 10 men who died were John Bryans, Robert Chambers, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Robert Freeburn, Joseph Lemmon, John McConville, James McWhirter, Robert Samuel Walker and Kenneth Worton.

Mr Black, then a 32-year-old father of three, was seriously wounded and spent months recovering in hospital.

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

However, in 2011 the Historical Enquiries Team found the IRA had been responsible and had targeted the workmen because of their religion.

No one has ever been convicted.

The original inquest in 1978 lasted just 30 minutes and recorded an open verdict, but after a long campaign for justice by Mr Black and victims’ families, the new inquest was ordered by Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin, in 2013.

It has been listed to start at Laganside Court in Belfast on May 23.

In a statement the Coroners Service urged anyone with information to come forward.

It said: “There may, for example, be persons with relevant information concerning the deaths but who have not yet brought that information to the attention of the authorities.

“There may be persons who were arrested in connection with the deaths and who wish formally to renounce any connection with the matter.

“Or there may be persons who have been mentioned in connection with these deaths or who have regarded themselves as under suspicion in relation to the deaths, who wish formally to renounce any suggestion of their involvement or who have information that may assist the coronial inquiry.

“Any individual who has information in relation to the deaths, or who wishes to clarify their position in relation to the deaths, is asked to email [email protected] or write to the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland.”