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Minister makes apology for legal threat over memorial at Kingsmill

Allison Morris a.morris@irishnews.com

ENVIRONMENT minister Alex Attwood has been forced to apologise after his department issued a letter threatening court action unless a memorial to victims of an IRA gun attack was removed.

The large memorial commemorating the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen murdered at Kingsmill in 1976 was sent to the owner of the land who does not have planning permission for the brick structure.

The department of environment threatened to take enforcement action unless the memorial was removed from the land at Kingsmill Road, Bessbrook by July 9.

The sectarian attack on factory workers who were travelling in a minibus along the Whitecross to Bessbrook road, in rural south Armagh, was one of the worst of the Troubles.

A Catholic colleague was ordered to leave the area while 11 Protestant workers were shot with only one man surviving the attack.

After angry reaction from the families of the victims the SDLP minister, pictured, apologised and said the letter "should not have been sent".

"When it comes to memorials, I make it very clear the matter should be referred to me," he said.

"That letter should not have been issued. How the planning system went off and issued a letter is beyond me. I am not happy.

"I want the matter fully checked out", the minister added.

DUP MLA William Irwin said the families would now be seeking retrospective planning approval for the memorial saying there are 19 'illegal' republican memorials with no action taken by the department to remove them.

"It is outrageous that a memorial to innocent victims who were brutally murdered by the IRA should have been targeted by the Planning Service.

"I would urge the minister to demand answers from his civil servants responsible for sending out this enforcement notice."

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy welcomed the apology and the fact that the minister has now delayed the enforcement notice while planning permission can be sought for the structure.

"I am pleased that he has apologised for the issue of the letter and I trust that common sense will prevail," he added.

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