Kingsmill commemoration service overshadowed by insensitive tweet

January 8, 2018

Families of the ten men killed in the Kingsmill massacre gathered for a roadside commemoration service marking the 42nd anniversary of the murders.

The service took place on Friday at the memorial on the narrow country road between Whitecross and Bessbrook where the textile workers were shot and killed after the work van they were travelling in was ambushed by an IRA gang on January 5 1976.  Relatives of the men and victims’ campaigners laid wreaths at the spot and said prayers.

Pensioner Bea Whorton (90), whose 24 year old son Kenneth was killed in the massacre, called for those allegedly responsible for the murders to be named, “just to see who we have been mixing with all these years,” she said.

May Quinn, whose brother Bobby Walker (46) was driving the minibus said the killers would always have the murders on their conscience: “If they confessed what they did it would be good for them and it would be good for us,” she said.

However, the anniversary was overshadowed by an angry public response to an insensitive post which appeared on the Twitter account of Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff, depicting a photo of the Tyrone MP posing with Kingsmill loaf of bread on his head.

The tweet was swiftly deleted and Mr McElduff apologised for “the hurt and pain” it caused: “When I posted the video I had not realised or imagined for a second that there was any possible link between the brand name of the bread and the Kingsmill anniversary,” he said.  “It was never my intention to hurt or cause offence to anyone and in particular to victims of the conflict who have suffered so grievously.  I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and pain this post has caused.”

An offer to meet with relatives of the Kingsmills victims’ to apologise in person was later accepted by victim Bobby Walker’s sister May, who said: “I would meet him, and he would take whatever I would say to him. And it wouldn’t be very nice I can tell you that.

“I don’t know what sort of a person he is at all, making jokes about the dead,” she added.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty also criticized Mr McElduff’s tweet, describing it as “totally unacceptable”.

“Public representatives have a duty to use the media, and in particular social media, in a sensitive and responsible manner. This was not the case in relation to the post by Mr. McElduff,” Mr McNulty said.  “It’s good that he has apologized however many will believe this is not sufficient to undo the hurt that he will have caused. There are innocent victims on all sides of the community and they deserve respect and sensitivity from all public representatives who have far reaching influence through traditional and social media.

“At this time of year, at the anniversaries of Kingsmill and the Reavey brothers, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” he added.