Kingsmills and why Northern Ireland did not end up like Bosnia

The Kingsmills families have had a number of meetings recently in their attempts to get justice for their relatives murdered by the IRA in 1976.

They met David Ford who has apparently promised to press for closer cooperation with the RoI government over the matter. Danny Kennedy who has been involved in the campaign said:

“Thirty-five years may have elapsed since that dreadful night and much has changed. One thing that has not changed is the determination of the victims’ families to fight for justice for the men who were cruelly murdered by the Provisional IRA, for the crime of being Protestant.”

The group also met Attorney general John Larkin who discussed “the human rights issues” arising from the family’s concerns and “assured them that he would do whatever was possible for him to do within the limitations of his powers to ensure that justice was done”.

It is unclear whether these meetings will bring the families any closer to justice. One of the most interesting things Larkin said, however, was not a legal but a moral point:

“The question is sometimes asked why Northern Ireland did not end up like Bosnia and the answer is in part to be found in the decency and humanity exemplified in the behaviour of the Protestant workmen killed at Kingsmills whose first actions were to protect their Catholic colleague from what they thought was a sectarian attack directed against him.”

The claim has been made here in Northern Ireland that we were “all to blame” for the troubles. Many people have repeatedly dissented from that dishonest narrative usually pushed by either the terrorists and their fellow travellers or else the “liberal dissidents” and their chief religious text, the Eames Bradley report. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people here had no part in the wicked murderous and violent acts of the Troubles and were and remain wholly innocent. As Mr. Larkin said the fact that Northern Ireland did not descend into a Bosnia is due to a number of reasons but one of them is the decency and honesty of most of us here. Not only are most of us innocent but we can all be proud that despite our profound political differences, by refusing to join or support the thugs and murderers, we helped defeat them.

The Kingsmills victims were clearly innocent but they were actively heroic as well as innocent. Practically the last act they performed was to try to protect a workmate whom they thought was at risk of death from armed terrorists. The contrast between their honour, decency and bravery and the murderous bigotry of their killers is total. Maybe that final action by those men helps explain why the IRA were never able to admit that they committed Kingsmills. The workmens’ last heroic action also, however, shows why even in their deaths, they and we (the normal decent people of all political opinions and none) won and why the murderers lost.

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