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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  • Alias

    “Could you sound any more foolish? Not possible. How many slave uprisings were there in the US? So on your logic, the slaves, the 98% who didn’t rise up, “saw no justification whatsoever for [any] sectarian murder campaign”. And so we’re going have to condemn the slaves that did revolt, say, Nat Turner, and call them “sociopaths”. So get a friggin’ clue about human nature. Most people are either too damn stupid or too damn scared to rise up.” – Slappy

    I see, Slappy, so the 98% of the general population of Northern Ireland who didn’t participate in the sectarian murder campaign were sort of “slaves” who didn’t know that their non-participation would continue to enslave them…

    …or something like that.

    They really wanted to “rise up” and murder their neighbours but, hmmmm, they were “too damn stupid or too damn scared” to do so.

    Okay, whatever you say, Slappy. *backs away slowly from keyboard*

  • Greenflag,

    Perhaps I should have left it nameless after all…


    Moral responsibility treats action and inaction differently – all other things being equal, inaction is more easily justified. But logically, action and inaction are equivalent – an opportunity missed has no less concrete consequences than an action taken.

    Consider a man collecting for charity in the street as you walk by. You cannot be expected to always give money to charity – you have a mortgage, or a family to consider. I cannot blame you for not giving to a good cause, and neither can I blame the other people who do not give. It is your moral right to make this choice, and it is conceivable that nobody gives money to this charity, and at the same time everyone involved goes home with a clear conscience.

    And yet a starving child in Somalia is still dead.

    Morally, the failure to save this child is in no way comparable to taking a gun and shooting her dead. And yet the logical consequence of inaction is exactly the same as the consequence of action. If you ask me why did the child die, I have to say that one factor (amongst others) was the failure of other people to save her when they had the opportunity to do so. Does that make all those people morally responsible for her death? Absolutely not. And yet if even a few of those people had given money to charity then that child might have been saved.

    Is this a moral argument? If you believe so, then you must accept moral responsibility for the consequences of all the things you did not do. If you do not believe so, then you must admit that moral responsibility does not cover all eventualities.

  • galloglaigh

    When you talk about the victims of the terrorist groups, set up by members of the DUP and TUV, you must consider that these terrorist organisations colluded with the UVF, UDA, and British military intelligence. This collusion included the importing of an arsenal, that caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent Catholics – and dozens of innocent Protestants.

    That’s why the question is important to ask, when people assume a preconceived idea, when looking at ‘The Other Side’.

    No single community or religious denomination should shoulder the blame, of the entire states collective guilt. Societal conflicts caused our difficulties.

  • Mick Fealty


    This is a forum for grown ups. I know it is widely assumed in nationalist circles that like the IRA the UVF had a contiguous development from 1912 to the modern day. But the modern incarnation was a nasty early 60’s namegrab.

    You may have a point about 1920, but that’s not the period under discussion here. Guilt by acronym would include the nursing staff at the old UVF Hospital. Something I’m sure you don’t intend.

    As for the third force et al have you any evidence the old man was doing anything other than throwing shapes?

  • Greenflag

    @ slappymcgroundnut,

    Excellent post above at 11.54 p.m. Among some of the stand out points this one below seems apposite in the circumstances .

    ‘So get a friggin’ clue about human nature.’

    I’m surprised at Alias making such a daft comment i.e ‘ ‘what then of the other 98%’ . I guess he’ll be making the same point when the bubble bursts across the pond
    as NYC Mayor Bloomberg more than hints at
    in this reference .

    Rick Perlstein, a historian and author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, said Americans suffer from a “profound sense of learned helplessness”.

    “The fact is the American population – even if they rose to that level of anger – they don’t feel that they have anybody to address that anger to, any responsive bodies,” he said. “That’s a function of the breakdown in trust in government. It’s a function of anomie and frustration.”

    But Mr Perlstein pointed to union protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana this year against anti-union measures in state legislatures there, to a massive strike by workers at telecommunications firm Verizon, and constituent meetings this summer at which voters angrily confronted congressmen about feared cuts to social programmes.

    “We are seeing a widespread social movement,” he said. “The fact that there isn’t a media narrative about interesting things happening says more about the media.”

    I may be wrong but was there much of a media narrative in Northern Ireland prior to the outbreak of violence in 1969 ? Back then the media was much less under the control of a few oligarchs than it is today and ‘government ‘ censorship or applied pressure was even more heeded by editors across the political spectrum.

  • Greenflag

    @ slappymcgroundnut,

    Your reference above to the Paisley/Bunting duo reminded me of how much the political climate has changed in NI .

  • Neil


    Are those all exact, verbatim quotes? Could you tell us your sources?

    Some more Ian Snr. silliness – totally respectable stuff really.

    “I say to the Dublin government, Mr Faulkner says it’s “hands across the border to Dublin”. I say, if they don’t behave themselves in the South, it will be shots across the border!”

    “This Romish man of sin is now in Hell!”; to a packed Ulster Hall after the death of John XXIII in June 1963.

    “I will kill all who get in my way”, which was shouted out at certain reporters following a loyalist rally in 1968.

    After a loyalist rally in 1968, Ian Paisley commented on the burning of Catholic homes by claiming: “Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners”; he also said the massive discrimination in employment and allocation of public housing for Catholics existed because “they breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin”.

    “Save Ulster from sodomy!” – Paisley’s slogan in a 1970s and 80s campaign against legalising homosexuality.

    “I am anti-Roman Catholic, but God being my judge, I love the poor dupes who are ground down under that system.”

    “The Provisional IRA is the military wing of the Roman Catholic Church.”

    “Ulster Resistance is not for the faint or half hearted and we will use all means which are deemed necessary to defeat the (Anglo-Irish) Agreement.” (Ulster Resistance rally, Belfast, November 1986)

  • Skinner


    For the record, I am not defending Paisley or saying he is/was ‘respectable’. This thread is about the propensity of some to claim that we were all ‘to blame’ for the violence.

    To a lesser degree of controversy there is also the propensity of some to claim that Paisley and his fellow hardline unionists have exactly the same culpability for the violence as have Sinn Fein politicans of the time. It is an attempt to balance blame because Sinn Fein’s real counterparts, the parties that represent loyalist paramilitaries, are not deemed big enough to shoulder it.

    My view is that the early Paisley was no doubt a sectarian trouble maker, a rabble-rouser and a very narrow-minded, short-sighted man. It is the context in which his utterances have to be read. They are deplorable and probably led some people to do very bad things.That is not the same as saying Paisley is wholly responsible for the very bad things. Each loyalist who “followed that man Paisley” has to take responsibility for his own actions. Paisley did not arm them, did not plan operations, did not direct certain individuals to be killed or bombs to be planted. None of the ferocious googling of quotes has returned anything that suggests the man was on a par with his contemporaries in Sinn Fein in terms of violence.

  • Greenflag

    @ Andrew Gallagher

    ‘Perhaps I should have left it nameless after all…’

    No harm in trying -sometimes words can’t convey exactly what one is trying to say . It happens to all of us .

    Somewhere between your more flexible and broader understanding and Turgon’s black and white party line -the ‘workable ‘ truth is to be found . I’m never keen to get involved in ‘morality’ competitions for my life experience is that those who profess the most are oft found to be the possessors of least .

    Slappy’s in your face ‘reality of human nature ‘ response strikes me as being closer to what actually happens in real life be it in the slaver Southern States or indeed anywhere else in the world when the flag of revolt is waved. If any revolt is to seriously impact a society then it somehow must tap tap into a wider communal ‘reservoir’ of support which is reflected eventually in electoral support .-otherwise it will unravel and fade away . To that extent SF show no sign of fading away quite the contrary and it’s their erstwhile opponents who seem to give that impression.

    Alias is on the other hand out there in Vulcansville star-
    treking away at least on this issue completely missing the political facts of life in respect of SF . Perhaps he’s been unnerved by the recent mass demonstrations in Jerusalem by large sections of the Israeli population ?

    When the dogs are barking is probably not the best time to listen to what people are saying or try to get across a concept . Listening and I mean really listening to the other side is not easy as a certain amount of ‘unlearning ‘ has got to be processed and one has to be comfortable with the new skin . It strikes me that some here are not comfortable in their own skins but are nevertheless ‘stuck ‘ within the old rigidities of almost Victorian vintage .

    For these folks it will always be a black and white world . Unfortunately the other 98% of us have to negotiate the moral abysses of taking or not taking action amongst a plethora of other activities .

    If it can work try it – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – and if it can be improved go for it .