Kingsmill victims’ workmate was “leading PIRA member”, inquest hears

June 5, 2017

The ongoing inquest into the Kingsmill massacre heard this week how a workmate who usually travelled with the victims was mentioned on a list of names of leading Provisional IRA members that police believed were involved in serious crime.    The names were given by a self-confessed IRA informer, although not all those mentioned on the list were suspected of involvement in Kingsmill.

Ten workers were shot dead after their minibus was stopped at Kingsmill near Whitecross in January in 1976. The only Catholic on board was ordered to flee while Alan Black was the sole survivor of the attack despite being shot 18 times.

Alex Kane QC, barrister for relatives of the dead, told the Belfast inquest someone who “usually travelled” on the minibus was named on the list.

Former RUC detective chief inspector James Mitchell was presented with the list while giving his evidence to the inquest.  Names of leading Provisional IRA members were on the list, most of whom were living in the Republic of Ireland, which would have required extradition proceedings to arrest them, he said.

Mr Kane claimed lack of cooperation with Gardaí at the time led to vital evidence being missed.

DCI Mitchel, who led the original RUC investigation, told the court that an inadequate number of detectives was available to investigate the killings.

“It was an abnormal situation in south Armagh, the manpower was totally inadequate,” he told the inquest.  “You had detectives coming from Belfast who had no idea of the geography of south Armagh.  You had added problems on top of the actual manpower, the logistics of running an investigation with such inadequate manpower and with the security level in south Armagh.”

His group of 25 detectives, boosted after the Kingsmill attack, had to investigate ordinary as well as paramilitary crime and the former detective said he only had around a dozen available at one time.

Meanwhile, one of the first witnesses on the scene after the attack was accused of making up his evidence that SAS Captain Robert Nairac had played a part in the atrocity.  Gerald Byrne had been travelling in a vehicle with his brother-in-law Charlie Hughes when they came across the bodies, gave three separate statements in January 1976, July 2015 and June 2016.

Byrne claimed it was Nairac who stopped the minibus and that he was given this information by his partner whose late husband served in the military.   However, Fiona Doherty QC, acting on behalf of the family of John McConville, pointed out inconsistencies in his evidence over the years and suggested he had “spun a yarn” regarding Nairac’s involvement.

Byrne insisted he was just relating “what he had been told”.

At hearing.