It is “an insult” that those who had the ‘courage’ to line 10 defenceless men up and shoot them at Kingsmills to this day “lack the courage to claim and accept responsibility for what they did”, an inquest into the massacre has heard.
That was the message from the lawyer speaking for many families of 10 Protestant civilians who were lined up and shot against their work minibus at Kingsmills in south Armagh as they returned home from work in 1976.
As the first Troubles legacy inquest began into the activities of a terror group – as opposed to state actors – Neil Rafferty QC said the Kingsmills families hoped the truth might emerge about the killings – but that they fear history might be rewritten to let the killers off the hook.
He illustrated the families’ fears by quoting a column by journalist Eoghan Harris which compared the Kingsmills massacre with the sectarian slaughter of 10 Protestant men by the IRA in Bandon Valley in Co Cork in 1922.
In both cases, Mr Harris said there had been a cover-up: “IRA apologists, supported by some academics, created a moral fog around the Bandon Valley murders to protect the myth of a non-sectarian old IRA...”.
Mr Rafferty said his families “want those myths held up to the light and exposed” because the Kingsmills weapons were used in dozens of other IRA murders, and the fictitious banner of ‘the South Armagh Reaction Force’ used to claim the massacre, was just like the UVF’s use of ‘the Protestant Action Force’ title – “nothing more than a butcher’s flag of convenience to carry out sectarian slaughter”.
Mr Rafferty said: “The families I represent regard it as an insult that those who had the ‘courage’ to line 10 defenceless men up and shoot them, to this day lack the courage to claim and accept responsibility for what they did.”
He added: “That deep hurt could be allayed and eased in this new and enlightened time – and that would be welcomed by some of them – if even at this late stage there was some acknowledgement by the IRA that they were responsible for these actions.”
The QC said the families had no choice but to put their trust in the inquest process.
“They know and accept no one will serve a minute for these murders but they do wish to ensure that history is not rewritten and but that truth finally comes out.”