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Gardaí have finally started handing over their files on massacre of Protestants

After months of pressure, criticism, and an order from Frances Fitzgerald.

kingsmill-massacre-2 The bullet riddled minibus near Whitecross in South Armagh where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA in 1976. Source: PA/EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA have finally started sharing what they know about the Kingsmill Massacre, TheJournal.ie has learned.

The move comes after a number of months of criticism as the force dealt with legal issues acting as a barrier to handing over the information.

Earlier this month, Fitzgerald formally ordered Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to hand over Garda files to a Belfast Coroner’s Court inquest into the IRA’s murder of 10 Protestant men in Co Armagh in 1976.

The force had been questioned in recent months about the delay, but a spokesperson for the Coroner told TheJournal.ie the process had begun:

The Coroner has received one file of material from An Garda Síochána and is aware that there is further material still being collated and considered by them.

A garda spokesperson confirmed that there were concerns over data protection issues which caused the delay. To “get over” that legal hurdle, the Minister needed to introduce a statutory instrument to allow gardaí to hand over the documents.

The files were delivered to the Coronor on 12 June, three days after Minister Fitzgerald’s order.

The spokesperson did not say when they expected the rest of the documents, but noted that a further preliminary hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday.

It is thought the massacre may have been planned from within the Republic, and the vehicle used in the attack was stolen, and later abandoned, in Co Louth.

In a Ministerial directive signed on 9 June, Minister Fitzgerald ordered O’Sullivan to provide “any material relevant to the inquest in the possession of An Garda Síochána.”

The order asked for the files to be handed over “as soon as practicable” and states that the directive is “for the purposes of advancing peace and reconciliation…”

Kingsmill Massacre Victims Enda Kenny meeting the families of the Kingsmill Massacre victims in 2012. Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The Coroners’ inquest first requested information from the Gardaí in April 2014, but six months later, had only received acknowledgement letters, the Irish Times reported at the time.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has met twice with families of the victims of the massacre. In 2012, he controversially did not apologise to them, saying “the IRA was the common enemy of all of the people of Ireland.”

In March, he reportedly arrived an hour late to a meeting with the families and the sole survivor, Alan Black, but pledged that all information would be given to the inquest.

Earlier this month, however, the Garda files still hadn’t been handed over, a delay which one lawyer for the families called “bordering on disgraceful,” the Irish Independent reported.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Justice said Gardaí had encountered “legal obstacles” which delayed the transfer of files in recent months.

The Garda Authorities have been engaged for some months in an ongoing legal process to facilitate this co-operation, in discussion with the Northern Ireland Coroner’s Office.
Particular legal issues arose in the process of the preparation of material by An Garda Síochána for transmission to the Coroner.
The Government identified a way forward to help provide a means to deal with some of the legal obstacles.

The department added that the Government and Gardaí were committed to giving the inquest “the greatest amount of material possible, in accordance with the law.”

Kingsmill massacre meeting Beatrice Worton, mother of Kingsmill massacre victim Kenneth Worton, before meeting the Taoiseach in 2012. Source: Julien Behal/PA

On 10 June, a day after her order to the Garda Commissioner, Fitzgerald issued a second directive under the 2003 Data Protection Act, allowing the Gardaí to hand over “sensitive personal data” in relation to the massacre.

On 5 January 1976, a group of workers in the town of Kingsmill, Co Armagh were pulled over in a Ford Transit van, by men disguised as British soldiers.

A 2011 inquiry found that the attackers were provisional IRA members using the “South Armagh Republican Action Force” as a front, due the fact that the IRA was officially on ceasefire at the time.

They lined up the workers, asked them their religion, and allowed one to flee when he said he was a Catholic.

They shot the remaining 11 men, killing all except Alan Black, who survived despite being hit 18 times. Noone has ever been convicted of the massacre.

Read: No apology but Taoiseach to ‘reflect’ on meeting with Kingsmill families>

Read: ‘Mixed feelings’ about the end of Northern Ireland’s Historical Enquiries Team>

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Dan MacGuill

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