Northern Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives assurances to Kingsmills families in Bessbrook

Enda Kenny arrives for meeting
Image caption Enda Kenny arrived more than an hour late for Thursday's meeting with the relatives in Bessbrook

Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny has given assurances to the relatives of victims of the Kingsmills massacre that the Irish government will provide information to the coroner.

The IRA murdered 10 men in 1976 attack.

The families want answers about security along the border at the time, and the role of the Garda (Irish police) in police investigations.

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, who organised the meeting, hailed Mr Kenny's commitment as "significant progress".

The victims of the Kingsmills massacre were all Protestants who were returning home from work when their minibus was ambushed by up to a dozen gunmen.

An inquest into the killings is due to open later this year and concerns have been raised about a delay in the disclosure of documents.

'Sensitive material'

The taoiseach arrived more than an hour late for Thursday's meeting with the families.

The relatives previously met Mr Kenny in September 2012.

After Thursday's meeting, they said Mr Kenny gave an undertaking that the Irish government would cooperate fully with the coroner's inquest into the killings.

The families said the taoiseach also gave an assurance that if the coroner had to travel to Dublin to view sensitive material, that would be facilitated.

The UUP's Mr Kennedy, who has supported the families' campaign for justice for a number of years, described the meeting as "very constructive".

"The assurances which the taoiseach gave families and public representatives in private session were repeated in his public comments.

"The Irish government will share all relevant documentation in relation to the Kingsmills atrocity with the Northern Ireland Coroner.

"There was also a wider commitment in relation to other atrocities committed in the border area over the years," Mr Kennedy added.

'Unacceptable delay'

The DUP MLA William Irwin also attended the meeting with the families.

"I welcome the fact that Mr Kenny has given an assurance to the families that the information will be handed over," he said.

"It does however remain a concern that it has taken sustained pressure to get to this stage.

"The coroner has been waiting on this information for some considerable time and the delay is unacceptable, especially as we are dealing with what was without doubt one of the most heinous crimes carried out by the IRA."

Image caption Alan Black. who survived the Kingsmills attack despite being shot 18 times, waits for Mr Kenny to arrive

"It is vital for the innocent victims of the IRA's terror campaign that the Irish government are seen to actively step up and provide the necessary information requested in inquiries and ongoing investigations," Mr Irwin added.

The victims of the Kingsmills massacre were all Protestants who were returning home from work when their minibus was ambushed by up to a dozen gunmen.

The textile factory workers were travelling along the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road in rural south Armagh on 5 January 1976.

The only Catholic in the minibus was ordered to leave the area, while 11 of his Protestant work colleagues were shot.

One of the men, Alan Black, survived despite being shot 18 times.

In 2011, an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team concluded that the IRA was responsible for the atrocity and that the victims were targeted because of their religion.

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