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Paisley’s son in U-turn over conciliatory meeting

A son of the late Ian Paisley has pulled out of a meeting with Whitecross man Eugene Reavey to discuss the slur levied against Mr Reavey by his father. Back in 1999 Ian Paisley used  parliamentary privilege to accuse Eugene Reavey of masterminding the murders of 10 protestant workmen in the 1976 Kingsmill atrocity. By using parliamentary privilege to make the damning accusation, Mr Paisley could not be legally challenged over his remarks.

The night before the murders – on 4 January 1976 – three of Mr Reavey’s brothers, John Martin, 24 Brian, 22, and 17 year old Anthony, were shot dead by loyalist gunmen who burst into their rural home in Whitecross.

Despite the Reavey family’s calls for no retaliation for the murders, 10 protestant workmen were shot and killed the following evening when their minibus was ambushed near the village of Kingsmill. The textile workers on board the bus were asked their religion and the only Catholic was ordered to run away. Bessbrook man Alan Black was the sole survivor of the attack, despite being shot 18 times.

Following Ian Paisley’s allegation in 1999, then RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said there was no evidence linking Mr Reavey to the murders, and in 2007, the Historical Enquiries Team accepted that none of the Reavey brothers were in the IRA.

Mr Reavey described the accusation made by Mr Paisley senior as “the most awful blow I ever got in all my life – to be accused of one of the worst atrocities in all of the Troubles.”

“My brothers and some of the boys who were shot at Kingsmill, they were very friendly,” he said,

“They were playing football together – in fact they were playing pool in Camlough 48 hours before both sets of them were murdered.”  Mr Reavey said Paisley’s remarks had “finished off” his cattle breeding business and that some people he had known for over 25 years “turned their backs on me and walked away.”

The Whitecross man said he had written to Ian Paisley more than 20 times asking him to retract his accusation but he had never received a reply.  The former First Minister died in 2014 having never retracted his allegation.

In 2015, Mr Reavey wrote to Kyle Paisley, who is a minister at Oulton Broad Free Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, asking for a meeting.  In his reply written in March 2016, Kyle Paisley admitted that, having watched a BBC documentary which showed that the Kingsmill massacre had been planned well in advance of being carried out, it was “evident that it was not in retaliation for what happened the night before, and that it was not carried out in the name of the Reavey family.” He added that he welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr Reavey in the future.

Rev Paisley subsequently withdrew the offer when details of the proposed meeting were made public on Friday morning.

In a statement on Twitter, Kyle Paisley said he was “disappointed” in the way the matter had been handled and that “confidence has been broken on what had been a matter of private correspondence.”

“My only purpose in saying that I would meet Mr Reavey was to offer Christian sympathy on a personal level,” he said, adding that he “could not and would not” apologise on his father’s behalf.

“Because of the way in which this matter has been handled, there is now no possibility of my meeting with Eugene Reavey.”

Speaking to The Examiner after Paisley’s dramatic u-turn on Friday, Mr Reavey insisted he did not break any confidences and that he had not asked Mr Paisley to apologise for this father’s remarks.

Describing the stigma of living with such an accusation, he continued,

“I have lived with this slur for over twenty years and I have never asked Kyle Paisley for an apology on behalf of his father. I wanted the meeting to take place in the spirit of reconciliation and to see where it would lead to.”