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Political expert claims IRA is ’embarrassed’ by Kingsmill massacre

As the inquest into the Kingsmill massacre got underway again last week, a leading political expert claimed the IRA is embarrassed about its involvement in the atrocity.

Addressing the inquest on Wednesday, Henry Patterson, Professor Emeritus of Irish Politics at Ulster University, said he agreed with the conclusion of the Historical Enquiries Team that the 1976 attack which saw ten protestant men shot dead on their way home from work, was carried out by the Provisional IRA under the guise of the South Armagh Republican Action Force.

The professor said that an indefinite ceasefire declared by the Provisional IRA on February 9, 1975, less than a year before Kingsmill was largely meaningless and referred to a statement made in April 1975 by the group’s army council which issued new ceasefire orders allowing IRA units to open fire in ‘retaliatory and defensive actions’.

Mr Patterson told the inquest that due to the “formidable threat” posed by the IRA at the time, south Armagh could not be policed in the same way as other parts of the border and said police had an “incredibly difficult” job even before the Troubles.

“The border was essential to the capacity of the IRA to maintain its campaign in this area,” he said, highlighting the ease with which republicans could plan operations, carry them out and then escape to their “safe haven” across the border.

Responding to barrister Neil Rafferty’s question as to why the IRA had never claimed responsibility for the atrocity, Mr Patterson said the IRA was embarrassed because the attack was “profoundly sectarian” and the organisation had always claimed its ideology was non-sectarian.

“It is clearly an embarrassment and I think it continues to be an embarrassment for republicans. I think some republicans would still deny the IRA did it,” he added.

The inquest also heard from former chairman of Whitecross GAA club, John Moley who said he knelt and prayed beside the bodies of the victims.

Giving evidence by Skype on Tuesday, Mr Moley told how he was one of the first on the scene after travelling from Whitecross to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry for the removal of the remains of the Reavey brothers, who had been murdered by loyalist gunmen the previous day.

He described seeing bodies “littered across the road” as he approached in his car and that he came across Gerry McKeown, who he knew through GAA circles. The two men knelt by the victims and prayed.

Mr Moley said some of the men appeared to have put their lunch boxes in front of themselves and described their van as “littered with bullets”.

“It was an horrific sight to see and it has given me many flashbacks throughout my life. It was a terrible scene,” he said.

“I was shocked beyond belief.”

The former GAA chairman revealed that he had been contacted by Eugene Reavey to give a statement to the Historical Enquiries Team in September 2010 but none was ever taken, despite the fact that he attended Mr Reavey’s home when officers were present.

He said he was never contacted by police and has never given a statement to them at any point.

A policeman stationed in Newtownhamilton, who was part of a group of officers called to assist Bessbrook station in response to the shooting, also gave evidence on Tuesday.

Edwin Scott, who was 21 at the time, said police were “always short-staffed” and that he was working 14 to 16-hour days due to the “ongoing security risk”.

The officer referred to south Armagh as “bandit country”, but refuted suggestions that patrols in the area were reduced due to the heightened security threat or risk. He also dismissed the idea that police had ever held back or withdrawn from the area.

“From time to time areas would have been out of bounds,” he admitted but when asked why this was the case, he replied: “I couldn’t say.”

Speaking after Tuesday’s hearing, the sole survivor of the shootings, Alan Black, said he believed there was more to come about the atrocity.

“We’ve learnt an awful lot more than what we did know, but there’s a lot more to come.” he said.

The Kingsmill inquest is set to resume again on Wednesday June 29.