Leo Varadkar ‘ignorant and insensitive’ with Kingsmills remarks

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has been accused of displaying “a level of ignorance and insensitivity” after he seemingly linked the Kingsmills massacre to state killings.
Leo Varadkar should make an unequivocal apology to the Kingsmills families, said Jim AllisterLeo Varadkar should make an unequivocal apology to the Kingsmills families, said Jim Allister
Leo Varadkar should make an unequivocal apology to the Kingsmills families, said Jim Allister

Reacting to Secretary of State Karen Bradley’s gaffe in the House of Commons when she claimed none of the deaths at the hands of the security forces during the Troubles were crimes, Mr Varadkar also appears to have misspoken in relation to legacy matters, though his office denies that was the case.

He listed Kingsmills – an atrocity in which Protestant workmen were gunned down by the IRA in south Armagh in 1976 – alongside Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday, something for which he has been criticised by ex-Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy and TUV leader Jim Allister.

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Mr Kennedy, a long-time supporter of the Kingsmills families, said: “Clearly Leo Varadkar is wrong to link the Ballymurphy inquest and the events of Bloody Sunday to Kingsmills. By so doing he displays a level of ignorance and insensitivity.

“The Kingmills families are still waiting for the Garda to provide quality intelligence information on those responsible for Kingsmills who used the Irish Republic to plan the massacre and found safe haven in it after the event.

“We’re also waiting on his government to enact legislation to help with Kingsmills and other cases. Words are cheap – Mr Varadkar has work to do.”

Describing Mrs Bradley’s comments in the Commons as insensitive and wrong, Mr Varadkar said: “Legacy issues in Britain and Ireland are very difficult.

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“I’ve met families who have lost loved ones during the Troubles and they’re still grieving and seeking justice.

“In that context I think the secretary of state’s comments were insensitive and they were wrong.

“Bear in mind we’re talking about the killing of civilians, peaceful protestors in Derry on Bloody Sunday, we’re talking about Ballymurphy and Kingsmills, and Dublin and Monaghan.

“We need a British government that is at least open to the possibility that these killings of civilians were crimes.

“Indeed, there have been convictions for such killings.”

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The taoiseach’s comments were widely reported by a number of media outlets at the end of last week.

Describing his remarks as “astounding”, Mr Allister said: “How dare Mr Varadkar suggest there can be any doubt that the republican murders at Kingsmills were crimes. They were crimes of the most bloodthirsty and wicked kind, carried out by terrorists who came from and returned to the sanctuary of Mr Varadkar’s Republic and in respect of which he and his government have barely given a scrap of information to the ongoing inquest.

“So, Mr Varadkar remove that huge beam from your eye by unequivocally apologising to the forgotten Kingsmills families for suggesting there can be any doubt over the criminality of those who made them victims. And when you are at it, maybe you’d like to humbly apologise for your territory being a safe haven for the IRA murderers of hundreds of our citizens in Northern Ireland.”

A spokesman for the taoiseach denied that he had voiced any doubt about the Kingsmills massacre being a crime, saying: “That is not what the taoiseach was suggesting. As he stated clearly ... the taoiseach was talking about the grief shared by all families who lost loved ones, and the legacy issues arising from them.”

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Following years of requests, An Garda Siochana recently supplied files about the massacre to the Kingsmills legacy inquest.

However, lawyers for the victims’ families said the documents “do not include a single piece of Garda intelligence pre or post murders” and that “no explanation has been proffered for this glaring omission”.

The documents confirmed there was no Garda investigation of Kingsmills, despite the fact that officers arrested suspects and seized weapons and a van used in the attack.

Counsel for the families said they want the Garda to explain why no related documents survive.