Leading article

Kingsmill families deserve full disclosure

After a wait of decades, the legacy inquests are finally providing families the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones.

It has to be acknowledged that the coroner's court is not a perfect mechanism.

Ideally these killings would have been properly investigated at the time and the perpetrators brought to justice through the criminal courts.

Instead, families seeking answers, particularly but not exclusively in cases involving suspected collusion, have experienced delay, obfuscation, obstruction and foot-dragging on the part of the state.

In the absence of a criminal justice process or an agreed approach on dealing with the past, an inquest at least gives bereaved relatives a judicially-backed means to examine witnesses, request information and hear evidence.

However, it is clear from a statement released by the families of those murdered at Kingsmill as well as the sole survivor Alan Black that there is considerable unhappiness at the inquest process in their case.

It is more than five years since the inquest opened into the sectarian murder of ten Protestant workmen near the village of Whitecross in south Armagh in 1976.

The families point out that since February, seven hearings have been cancelled or rescheduled while the small number that have taken place have been 'slotted into lunchtime periods'.

They are especially critical of the withholding of information and the police failings in this case.

''There is such an obscene imbalance between the need to protect the RUC Special Branch officers along with their agents and the application of the democratic administration of justice,'' said the statement.

They add that unless the real circumstances and motives are to be revealed, 'it is pointless and even cruel to subject us to further suffering,' and have asked the coroner to bring the inquest to a conclusion.

It is deeply disappointing that victims and survivors feel so disillusioned by a process that should be finally giving them a fuller picture of what happened on that terrible night 43 years ago.

They are entitled to be given all available information and are understandably frustrated by the pace of the inquest and, more crucially, by the secrecy that still surrounds this atrocity.

Hopefully, any scheduling concerns can be resolved by the coroner but the issue of full disclosure is one that goes to the heart of the legacy cases and the search for truth.

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