The PSNI has confirmed for the first time in court that the IRA was behind the Kingsmills massacre – and that “one close group of individuals” may have been responsible for south Armagh murders at the time.
Eleven weapons were used in the 1976 attack which saw 10 Protestant workmen murdered near Kingsmills in south Armagh.
Nobody has ever been charged with the atrocity and it was claimed by the South Armagh Republican Action Force (SARAF).
A 2011 Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report named six men convicted of using the same weapons after the attack, but said it was wrong to assume they were behind Kingsmills as a PIRA quartermaster normally held weapons centrally and distributed them as needed.
But subsequent police intelligence research, revealed at the inquest in Belfast on Tuesday, found the weapons may have been more closely held by IRA members than previously thought.
The report said that there had been 20 murders and a string of attempted murders in south Armagh in the relatively small time frame of December 1974 to June 1976.
“This may indicate that one close group of individuals were in the main responsible as it would not have been practical to continue to move weapons around with high levels of police and Army around,” the report found.
The finding was affirmed in court by PSNI Crime Operations intelligence expert J2.
Sean Doran QC for the coroner named the six men in court who had used Kingsmills weapons after the atrocity as: Patrick Joseph Quinn, Daniel Oliver McGuinness, Raymond Peter McCreesh, John Anthony McCooey, Noel Charles Hillen and Brian Tumilty.
There were also repeated references in intelligence he said, linking suspect S91 – HET’s ‘Suspect A’ – to Kingsmills; he hijacked a van from Co Louth to transport the gunmen.
Although intelligence agreed that to some extent the south Armagh IRA were “a law unto themselves”, there had also been some direction from the PAC [Provisional IRA Council] for Kingsmills.
Mr Doran said the 11 weapons were used for 37 murders, 22 attempted murders and 19 non-fatal shootings from 1974-89, including the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in 1989.
Officer J2 concluded that the PSNI’s 2017 assessment of Kingsmills – its first in a court of law – was that “the PIRA in south Armagh committed the Kingsmills murders and [that the banner of] SARAF was used as a cover”.