Taoiseach meeting leaves Kingsmills families disappointed

September 18, 2012

By Christine Keighery

Families of the Kingsmills victims travelled to Dublin last Thursday for a meeting with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

The relatives had sought an apology from the Irish Prime Minister for what they believe was the “blatant inaction” of the Irish government over the 1976 killings of ten protestant men in County Armagh.

The textile workers were murdered when the bus they were travelling home from work in was ambushed near the village of Kingsmill, south Armagh.  Eleven armed men, using the cover name of the South Armagh Republican Action Force, forced the victims into revealing their religion before shooting them dead.

Last year, a report by the Historical Enquiries Team found the IRA was responsible.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Karen Armstrong, whose brother John McConville was murdered, said the families had a lot of questions for the Taoiseach and felt that the “failures” of the time justified “some expression of regret.”

She accused the Irish government of turning a blind eye to the Kingsmills murders “in as far as they failed to discourage the perpetrators taking refuge in their border area at that time.”

Following last week’s meeting, the families of the murdered men spoke of their disappointment that the Taoiseach maintained he could not apologise for something carried out by the IRA.

The relatives said they had hoped he would apologise for the lack of security and resources put into the investigation and have invited Mr Kenny to south Armagh to visit the massacre site.

The Taoiseach said he had invited the families to Dublin so he could hear “at first hand how their lives had been affected by one of the worst atrocities from the Troubles” and said he had assured them during the meeting that their concerns were every bit as important to him as the concerns of other victims and their families.

Mr Kenny said,

“I told them that the IRA was the common enemy of all of the people of Ireland, of all traditions, north and south, and that their campaign of violence was strongly resisted by successive Irish governments.

“I promised the families that I would reflect carefully on what they told me this afternoon.”

The Ulster Unionist Assembly member for Newry & Armagh, Danny Kennedy MLA, also attended after setting up the meeting on behalf of the Kingsmills group. Giving his reaction to the meeting, Mr Kennedy said he was pleased that the meeting had taken place to enable the Taoiseach to hear at first hand the story of the barbaric atrocity in which ten innocent Protestant workmen were murdered returning from their work and to listen to the impact the murders had on the families involved.

Mr Kennedy said Enda Kenny had listened with courtesy and respect, and had indicated a willingness to meet with the group again, perhaps in Bessbrook and south Armagh itself. However, Mr Kennedy said there was some disappointment that Mr Kenny had not at this stage issued a statement of apology or acknowledgement at the failure of previous Irish Governments and security services to deal effectively with the terrorist threat from the IRA.

The UUP MLA said it had been a long and detailed meeting. “He has outlined his initial position and we are not in complete agreement with that,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are prepared to continue to have dialogue. We’re clear that he’s not apologising, and nor are we asking him to apologise for the actions of the Provisional IRA, but we do believe that there were failings in the political and security system that allowed events such as Kingsmills to take place, and for that, we think that the Taoiseach should make a public acknowledgment and apology”.