Why the Kingsmills inquest is so important

It's been a long, difficult and emotional week for the Kingsmills families and their supporters.

Saturday, 28th May 2016, 2:00 pm
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy attends the long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The fresh Coroner’s Inquest into the murder of the ten innocent Protestant workmen in South Armagh on 5 th January 1976 opened at Court no.13 Laganside, Belfast on Monday.

Even to those of us deeply involved in the campaign to obtain maximum justice for the sole survivor and the families, it was difficult to listen as accounts of the atrocity were read into the record of the Inquest being heard by the Coroner, Mr Brian Sherrard.

The evidence submitted through statements from family members was both graphic and compelling. The sheer scale of the wickedness of the IRA murder squad who carried out the atrocity was almost too much to bear, but it is crucially important that this story is told to ensure that, as Alan Black put it “the unvarnished truth will not be airbrushed away”.

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In his brilliant summary of the events, Neil Rafferty QC, acting on behalf of some of the families, reminded the Inquest just who was responsible for the slaughter of the 10 Protestant workmen – the Provisional IRA – and nobody else.

The evidence given by Alan Black, the sole survivor, was devastatingly and brutally honest as it had to be. Alan has had to live with the trauma of that night now for over forty years. He is man of enormous dignity and humanity, devoid of any bitterness despite his own experience. He believes he is honour bound to his murdered workmates to tell the story of that night, however painful.

Alan recalled in graphic detail how Robert Chambers, his apprentice and the youngest victim, had met a terrible death and of his final anguished cries for his mother before being shot in the face. It was incredibly moving and utterly heart-breaking and I, with others, cried as Alan’s story was told.

I knew Robert Chambers. He was about 18 months older than me and we were on friendly terms in our home village of Bessbrook. Like the rest of his workmates he was entirely innocent. He was the much loved youngest son of Bob and Dora Chambers, who never recovered from his murder and died prematurely of broken hearts.

The Inquest so far has allowed Alan Black and the families to tell their story, and this appears to be somewhat cathartic in dealing with the hurt endured after over forty years of silence and suffering.

The hope is that, even after such a long period, Republicans in South Armagh will finally admit responsibility and at least acknowledge the pain of their beleaguered Protestant neighbours.

Now is the time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be told about Kingsmills. Only then can we hope to move forward as a united community.