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The bullet-ridden minibus where the 10 protestant workmen were shot. PA Archive/PA Images.
Inquest findings

Irish border was 'exploited' by terrorists in Kingsmill attack, which was partly planned in ROI

Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead when a gang ambushed their minibus near Kingsmill, Co Armagh, on January 5 1976.

THERE APPEARED TO be “some reluctance on the part of the Irish State” in the wake of the Kingsmill attack to acknowledge the role of the border in the massacre, a coroner has said.

Delivering his long-awaited findings in the legacy inquest, coroner Brian Sherrard said the Irish border was “exploited” by the terrorists and that the attack was in part organised from the Republic of Ireland.

Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead when a gang ambushed their minibus near Kingsmill, Co Armagh, on January 5 1976.

The killings were described by the coroner as an “overtly sectarian attack by the IRA”.


He said concerns had been raised over the significance of the Irish border in “facilitating the atrocity and hampering the investigation”.

He added: “The evidence considered by the inquest leads to the conclusion that the border was exploited by terrorists.

“Each jurisdiction had its own police, its own military and its own laws.

“Normal policing was impossible in South Armagh which, in contrast to the Republic of Ireland, was in chaos due to terrorism.

“The secretary of state for Northern Ireland at the time of the attack, Merlyn Rees, citing the hostility of certain members of the local population, described the area as ‘almost uncontrollable’.

“The border allowed for planning, training, organisation, weapons storage and retreat at a safe physical and legal distance from the authorities that would be faced with investigating terrorist acts in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Sherrard added: “The inquest is confident that the Kingsmill atrocity was, at least in part, organised from the Republic of Ireland.

“This can be seen in the theft of the H&P Campbell van and its subsequent disposal both of which took place in the Republic of Ireland.

“The palm print lifted from the van originated from a known IRA terrorist located south of the border.

“Police assessments over successive investigations, albeit based on intelligence, pointed to suspects being domiciled in the Republic of Ireland.

“Four of the weapons used in the attack were subsequently located in County Louth.

“In the aftermath of the attack, there appears to have been some reluctance on the part of the Irish State to acknowledge the role of the border.

“Patrick Cooney, Irish minister for justice, is quoted in several newspapers denying that the terrorists had fled south.

“He maintained that the terrorists responsible were based in South Armagh.”

Mr Sherrard said the existence of the border was “also considered a difficulty by the RUC in terms of arresting suspects”.

He said evidence given to the inquest that intelligence given to the RUC about the identity of those involved in the attack suggested it would have been of “limited value as most were resident south of the border”.

However, he said evidence also confirmed that lines of communication were open between police in both jurisdictions.

The coroner added: “The attack clearly resonated with the government in Ireland.

“Some of the concern reflected in contemporaneous newspaper reports surrounded the possibility of reprisal attacks south of the border.

“Patrick Cooney, then-Irish minister for justice, raised the prospect of imminent civil war in Northern Ireland.”

Press Association