Call for public apology after HET report exonerates Reavey family

May 25, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

A Whitecross man whose three brothers were shot dead by loyalists 34 years ago has welcomed findings which exonerate his family from any paramilitary or political links but says it will take a full apology from the State – through Justice Minister David Ford – for its part in their murders to bring closure to the family’s ordeal.

Eugene Reavey met with Minister Ford on Wednesday and appealed to him to publicly apologise from the floor of the Assembly for the actions of State-employed security force members who were involved in the murders of his brothers.

The recently published report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) found that John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey – who were murdered in their home at Greyhilla, Whitecross in January 1976 – were entirely innocent victims with no link to any paramilitary organisation.

Contrary to subsequent speculation by the police, the report found that no member of the Reavey family was in any way involved in the nearby Kingsmill massacre, in which ten Protestant workmen were killed just 24 hours after the Reavey brothers’ murders.

In 1999 the then North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Snr, used Parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to publicly name Eugene Reavey as having ‘set up the Kingsmill massacre’.  Mr Reavey has spent the past eleven years vigorously campaigning to clear his name and those of his brothers.

Now the HET investigation has completely vindicated the entire Reavey family

In its final report, it says: “There is no doubt that John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey were entirely innocent victims.

“Research by HET confirms that they did not have any criminal convictions or links to any paramilitary group.

“No member of the Reavey family had any verified links to any paramilitary group, contrary to later speculation.”

According to the report, the officer in charge of the investigation said there was ‘much disinformation, speculative and fabricated intelligence about which hindered investigations’.


In 2007 the HET apologised on behalf of the British government to the Reavey family for the behaviour of the security forces in the aftermath of the murders.  However, Mr Reavey says, in light of the findings contained in the HET’s now completed report, it is imperative that the Justice Minister apologise for the role of security force personnel in the actual murders.

“My brothers have been scrutinised by the HET investigation and were found not to have been involved in any political or paramilitary organisation, or any other crime.  The whole Reavey family has gone through the same scrutiny and there is no intelligence anywhere to show that any member of the family had links to any grouping,” he said.

“Security forces came into our house and murdered innocent people.  These people were paid to protect innocent people in this country and they came into our house and shot three innocent people dead.  Surely the State should apologise for that.”


Eugene Reavey also reiterated his call to Dr. Paisley to ‘do the decent thing’ and apologise for the remarks he made on the floor of the House of Commons, saying the accusation caused untold damage to him and his family.

Describing the ordeal as ‘an incredibly difficult experience’ for his whole family, he said: “It’s not very nice having people turning their back on you, walking away from you, whispering behind your back.

“Mr Paisley was very vociferous in blaming me as the organiser of the Kingsmill massacre.  The Kingsmill victims were not our enemies, they were our friends.  We knew all those people, they were just like ourselves, just ordinary decent people who were all innocent victims.”

Mr Reavey claims that after the murders the police went on a campaign of ‘sullying the Reavey family name’ and it was upon this information that Paisley based his accusation.

“Next week Ian Paisley will take his seat in the House of Lords.  I hope before he takes his seat that he will have the decency to apologise.  I have said that I will accept his apology.  I hold no umbrage against him, but I certainly do want him to apologise to my mother.  It was an awful thing that my mother lost three of her sons without being labelled as having reared a mass murderer.”


In its investigation into the killings of John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey, the HET found that the murders were carried out by members of the notorious Glenanne Gang.  Evidence of security force collusion was also uncovered.

It is believed some of the weapons used in the attack were used in a number of other sectarian murders, including the killing of three men at Donnelly’s bar in Silverbridge in 1975.  The HET report on its investigation into this attack is expected to conclude soon.


The HET’s exoneration of the Reavey family has been welcomed by local politicians.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley says Mr Paisley should now withdraw the statement he made against Eugene Reavey and ‘apologise in full’ to the family.

“Eugene Reavey’s three brothers were murdered by loyalists in circumstances which strongly indicate collusion the night before Kingsmills. Mr Reavey wrote to Ian Paisley almost two years ago and asked him to withdraw the remarks he made in Parliament in 1999 and to apologise for making them.  He has offered no comment since,” Mr Bradley said.

“Now that the Historical Enquiries Team has  reported on the murder of the Reavey brothers and stated categorically that neither they, nor Eugene, had any connection with any paramilitary organisation or crime, Mr Paisley should apologise in full to Mr Reavey, his family, and especially his ageing mother.

“It is totally unacceptable that Mr Paisley has defamed Eugene Reavey in the most serious manner possible.  The opportunity is there for him now to take away that hurt caused by withdrawing his remarks and apologising in full.  If Ian Paisley has truly entered into the new era of peace and reconciliation, as he claims he has, then he should take the next step and apologise.”

Welcoming the HET’s findings, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said, “The Reavey family has had to cope with an unbearable burden over many years.  To lose brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony, three members of one family, is horrendous but for Eugene Reavey to be named by Ian Paisley, without evidence, as recently as 1999 as being responsible for Kingsmills is appalling.

“Sinn Fein joins with the Reavey family in calling for an immediate apology from Mr Paisley.  Eugene Reavey has campaigned for 30 years for justice for him and his brothers, it’s time for Mr Paisley to retract his claims and issue a full apology.”