IRA is 'embarrassed' by Kingsmill massacre, inquest hears

Henry Patterson, Professor Emeritus of Irish Politics at Ulster University gave evidence at the Kingsmill inquest on Thursday.
Gareth McKeown

THE IRA is "embarrassed" about its involvement the Kingsmill massacre according to a leading political expert.

Henry Patterson, Professor Emeritus of Irish Politics at Ulster University, gave his assessment as he addressed the Kingsmill inquest yesterday to outline the political context in the border area at the time.

He agreed with the judgment of the Historical Enquires Team that the attack was carried out by the Provisional IRA under the guise of the South Armagh Republican Action Force.

Mr Patterson said in 1975 South Armagh had emerged as the "predominant border security problem for the northern authorities" and "the Provisional IRA in the area was recognised as a formidable force by the security forces both sides of the border".

He said an indefinite ceasefire declared by the Provisional IRA on February 9, 1975, less than a year before Kingsmill was largely meaningless and noted a 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'.

Due to the serious threat from the IRA at this time Mr Patterson said that it was not possible to police south Armagh the same way as other parts of the border and noted that the "Garda was an unarmed force facing groups of at times heavily armed and ruthless IRA men".

When asked if the border had a limiting effect on the investigation the professor said police had an "incredibly difficult" job even before the Troubles.

He noted the ease with which republicans could plan operations, carry them out and then escape to their "safe haven" across the border.

"The border was essential to the capacity of the IRA to maintain its campaign in this area," he said.

When asked by Neil Rafferty, barrister for several of the families, why the IRA had never claimed responsibility for Kingsmill 40 years on, Mr Patterson said the IRA was embarrassed as the organisation would claim in its ideology to be non-sectarian, but this was a "profoundly sectarian atrocity".

"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 Kingsmill inquest is set to resume again on June 29. Witness Gerald Byrne had been due to give evidence on Thursday, but was unable due to illness.

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