MPs in row over IRA ‘genocide’

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy

SHOCKED English MPs have rejected a Stormont minister’s testimony that the IRA carried out “genocide” against unionists in south Armagh.

Danny Kennedy was giving evidence at Stormont yesterday, along with families of the 10 Protestant workmen massacred by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976, to English MPs from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

The committee is visiting Northern Ireland on a low-key ‘information visit’, with a particular interest in hearing from various groups about dealing with Northern Ireland’s past.

“We felt it was important to engage with them,” Mr Kennedy said. “But they were not accepting of my term ‘genocide’ to describe what happened in south Armagh.

“However, I stand over the term, because the experience of many unionists in the area was that the IRA had a dedicated campaign to remove them.

“Whether you want to call it ethnic cleansing or genocide, it amounts to the same thing.

“A couple of committee members reacted to the term genocide. That is a matter for them.”

He said it was important for the MPs to hear from the sole survivor of the Kingsmills massacre, Alan Black, who made a rare appearance yesterday to tell MPs what happened on the night of the murders.

“Our recommendation to the MPs was that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the Kingsmills murders was not enough,” Mr Kennedy said. “The investigation will have to be continued by the PSNI.”

Mr Kennedy also made a strong case for funding to be restored to south Armagh victims group FAIR, in order to support the Kingsmills families. Stormont funding was withdrawn after allegations of tendering irregularities, but funders have declined to publish the conclusions of their investigations into the group.

English MPs from the committee are here to talk to a variety of groups, predominantly on the theme of dealing with Northern Ireland’s past, Mr Kennedy said. They met with the First and Deputy First Ministers immediately before the Kingsmills families and are also meeting with the Reavey family, who lost three brothers to the UVF in south Armagh, and relatives who lost loved ones in the IRA’s Shankill bombing. The MPs are also to meet with the HET.

Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was murdered at Kingsmills, said that Mr Kennedy told MPs how the IRA singled out key family members to undermine the unionist community in south Armagh.

“Danny told them that if there was only one man working a farm in south Armagh, the IRA would shoot him and then the woman of the farm would have to move away.

“We told the MPs we want an inquiry and we want those responsible brought to justice. After 36 years nobody has been held responsible for Kingsmills.”

Willie Frazer, director of FAIR, said the term ‘genocide’ had caused “a heated row”.

He said: “Some of the committee were sympathetic but they had no idea what we were talking about. However, we will want to follow the meeting up to see if we can build some common ground with them.”

He added that the IRA murdered around 390 people in the general south Armagh area.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee declined to make any comment yesterday.

- The book Lost Lives, which chronicles the victims of the Troubles, shows that Co Armagh saw the highest concentration of deaths outside of Belfast during those years. The county saw 111 Army deaths, 114 RUC/UDR deaths and 231 civilian deaths.