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Kingsmill inquest asked to release top secret material

September 19, 2016

Lawyers for the relatives of the victims of the Kingsmill Massacre have called for top secret intelligence files to be released to the inquest into the atrocity.

During a hearing at Belfast Coroner’s Court last Tuesday, Barrister Fiona Doherty QC, who is representing relatives of John McConville, told Coroner Judge Brian Sherrard that the families’ immediate reaction to formal requests for some police and army documentation to be blanked out is to “suspect sinister motives.”

“That is not helped by the history of the case and by recent developments,” she added.

It was revealed during the hearing that around 1,100 pages of classified material relate to the controversial case.

Barrister Richard Smyth, acting for the majority of bereaved relatives, asked the court to consider “how fundamentally important this process is to the families; how long they have waited” and said the court should also take into account the impact of the recent emergence of a major forensic and the arrest of a suspect.

Mr Smyth said both developments “coming at the eleventh hour” has damaged trust for the families leaving them “not knowing what to think.

Ten Protestant workmen were shot and killed when their minibus was ambushed near the rural village of Kingsmill in south Armagh on January 5 1976. The textile workers on board the bus were asked their religion and the only Catholic was ordered to run away.

The remaining men were then forced to line up outside the van before being gunned down.

Bessbrook man Alan Black was the sole survivor of the attack, despite being shot 18 times.

No-one has ever been convicted of the atrocity.

Public evidence sessions in the high-profile inquest have been adjourned to facilitate two days of private hearings during which the reasons for so-called public interest immunity (PII) applications in relation to the top secret material will be investigated.

Ms Doherty QC said the coroner had an important task in balancing the public interest in disclosure against the public interest of non-disclosure but added that “The default position in legal proceedings should always be openness and transparency.”

Addressing the campaigning families, Judge Sherrard said he would consider each PII request on its own merits and that “Each and every one of the proposed redactions will have to be justified.”

“It will be up to the applicant to persuade the court.”

The case has been adjourned.

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