Kingsmills inquest to move south to question Gardai

The first legacy inquest to examine the actions of Gardai after a Troubles murder will be in relation to the Kingsmills massacre.

Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has brought forward a bill to facilitate Gardai giving evidence
Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has brought forward a bill to facilitate Gardai giving evidence

The Irish Department of Justice is taking steps to allow the inquest into the atrocity to sit in the south in order to take evidence from Gardai.

Ten Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh as they drove home from work in 1976.

The Kingsmills inquest has been requesting input from the Garda regarding the atrocity since the first preliminary hearing in February 2014.

Families of the deceased have complained that to date the Garda has released little more than newspaper clippings about the murders.

However, the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has now published the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2017, following approval by the Irish government.

A spokesman for the minister said the proposals are “to facilitate the taking of evidence in this jurisdiction from members of An Garda Síochána by Northern Ireland coroners who are conducting legacy inquest”.

He added: “The arrangements will be put in place in accordance with the law. They will build upon and complement the current co-operation that is being provided to the coroner who is carrying out the inquest into the brutal killings at Kingsmills in 1976.”

Lawyers for families of the victims will want to hear from the Garda about the hijacking of the suspected getaway van by gunmen outside Dundalk, as well as its subsequent recovery, and details of any Garda investigation into the gang. Most of the suspects were on the run at the time and suspected of being based in the Dundalk area. Lawyers will also examine the Garda recovery of four weapons used in the attack.

Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmills, said it was “a bit difficult to swallow” that the inquest would have to move south to take evidence from Gardai.

“The PSNI went to Dublin voluntarily for the Smithwick Tribunal, so I don’t see what difficulty it is for them to come up here,” he said. “But I suppose this has to be welcomed.”