The News Letter today has details of the HET report into the Kingsmills massacre, the full report of which will be released to the families today.
On January 5, 1976, a Ford Transit minibus was carrying a mixed workforce of 16 home from work in Glenanne to Bessbrook. Five were Catholics and 11 were Protestants. Four of the Catholics got out at Whitecross, while the remainder continued on the road to Bessbrook.
As the bus cleared the rise of a hill, it was stopped by a man standing on the road and flashing a torch. As it stopped, 11 masked gunmen emerged from the hedges.
The workers assumed that they were being stopped and searched by an Army or RUC checkpoint, and when ordered to line up beside the bus, they obeyed.
At this point the lead gunman ordered the only Catholic, Richard Hughes, to step forward. Hughes’ workmates thinking that the armed men were loyalists who had come to kill him – tried to stop him from identifying himself. However, when Hughes stepped forward he was told to “get down the road and don’t look back”.
The remaining 11 men were shot with more than 100 rounds in less than a minute. Ten of them were killed outright while Mr Black survived despite having 18 gunshot wounds.
Nine of the dead were from the village of Bessbrook, while the bus driver was from nearby Mountnorris.
It is understood the massacre at Kingsmills was months in the planning giving the lie to the claims that it was in retaliation for the sectarian murder of Catholics the night before.
In the current climate of claims that Northern Ireland needs a truth commission etc. and suggestions that terrorists would cooperate with such a commission, it has to be remembered that the IRA have never admitted involvement. A group called the South Armagh Republican Action Force claimed the killings. However the weapons used in the murders were used in 110 other attacks, including the murder of five Orangemen at Tullyvallen, the killing of RUC officers, chief supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan, as well as the murder of victims campaigner Willie Frazer’s father. Unsurprisingly the HET found that the IRA was responsible for the atrocity and that the victims were targeted because of their religion.