Doug Beattie: Unlike the Loughgall murderers, the Kingsmills dead were real martyrs '“ killed for their faith

The recent appearance by Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill at a commemoration for the eight IRA men killed at Loughgall in 1987 certainly caused a great deal of controversy.

The situation for me has been made all the more stark by the inquest into the murder of ten Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in 1976, which is currently taking place at Belfast Coroners’ Court.

Media coverage of Loughgall is invariably accompanied with a photo montage of the eight dead terrorists and photos of a blue van riddled with bullets.

Any look back at Kingsmills brings with it the colour photo of a red minibus, also riddled with bullets, where ten unarmed men were lined up and murdered, purely because of their religion.

Here the similarities end. The eight IRA men who died at Loughgall were all intent on committing murder and went well equipped to do so, clad in body armour and carrying automatic weapons.

The ten Protestant workmen murdered at Kingsmills were - in stark contrast - decent men going home to their families after a day’s work, armed with nothing more sinister than plastic lunchboxes and thermos flasks.

With no hint of irony, Sinn Fein referred to the dead at Loughgall as martyrs. In Christian culture, martyrs were put to death for their faith. When one looks at the dead of Loughgall and the dead of Kingsmills, it is perfectly clear that only one group was murdered for their faith. And it wasn’t the men in body armour carrying automatic weapons out to commit murder.

The men who died at Loughgall were the type of people who committed atrocities like Kingsmills without hesitation.

Michelle O’Neill should ponder that the next time she decides to demand respect.

Doug Beattie MC MLA, Ulster Unionist