Special Assembly debate challenges Paisley to withdraw Reavey slur

July 6, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

During an Assembly debate on Wednesday, Ian Paisley was challenged to withdraw accusations and offer an apology for false remarks he made against members of a Whitecross family more than a decade ago.

Dr Paisley failed to turn up to the special debate on the murders of brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey, where members of the Assembly listened while SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley called on the former First Minister to apologise for wrongly accusing another brother, Eugene, of masterminding the notorious Kingsmill massacre.

Mr Reavey and members of his family were in the public gallery to hear Mr Bradley describe the events surrounding the deaths of their brothers.

John Martin, Brian and Anthony were shot dead by the UVF in their home at Whitecross on January 4th 1976.  Just 24 hours later, ten men were shot dead by the IRA in what became known as the Kingsmill massacre.

In 1999 Dr. Paisley used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to accuse Eugene Reavey of masterminding the Kingsmill massacre and linked his family to paramilitary and criminal activity.

Mr Reavey has always protested his and his family’s innocence and earlier this year an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) completely vindicated the entire family.

Following the report’s publication, Eugene Reavey called on Dr. Paisley to apologise for the slur he cast on the family.

Significant step

Dominic Bradley says the debate reflected the Assembly’s endorsement of the innocence of all Reavey family members living and dead.

“It was an even-tempered debate on such a very sensitive issue, but there is no doubt that the acceptance by all speakers of the innocence of the murder victims and their surviving brother Eugene marks a very significant step.

“There were no dissenting voices when I called on Ian Paisley to withdraw the accusation that Eugene was the organiser of the Kingsmills massacre on the following day. In effect the whole Assembly has added its voice to the call,” he said.

“The family was pleased by Justice Minister David Ford’s strong endorsement of the conclusions of the report of the Historical Enquiries Team which has clearly stated that the family had no links to any paramilitary group or crime. They also noted the Minister’s reference to the great pain that had been caused to the family, and in particular to 88-year-old mother Sadie Reavey, by innuendo and false accusations.”

Mr Bradley stated it was the HET’s report which ‘exposed the hollowness’ of Ian Paisley’s allegations and he should now ‘heed its unanimous voice and do the decent thing’ and apologise.

Despite repeated calls to withdraw the remarks, Ian Paisley has so far refused.

Today (Monday) he will take his seat in the House of Lords where he will be known as Lord Bannside of Antrim.