Northern Ireland

Kingsmill massacre inquest delayed as no coroner is available

Kingsmill mini-bus Image copyright PA
Image caption The Protestant textile workers were travelling home from work when their mini-bus was ambushed

An inquest into an IRA massacre of 10 Protestant workers has been delayed because there is no coroner to hear it.

Republicans ambushed a mini-bus carrying the men at Kingsmill in County Armagh in 1976 and murdered them after checking what religion they were.

Senior coroner John Leckey is retiring this year and told a preliminary hearing of the inquest in Belfast that no replacement has been appointed.

His retirement could leave only one coroner in Northern Ireland.

Kingsmill is among dozens of inquests dating from the early days of the Troubles that face delay because not enough money is available to investigate or there is nobody to oversee fresh hearings.

Political

Mr Leckey said: "I feel for the bereaved families, not exclusively Kingsmill but for other inquests I am involved in.

"It is a disappointment that is widespread."

A lawyer for some of the Kingsmill victims' families said they would be pressing Stormont's justice department for more resources to allow an inquest to go ahead.

Karen Armstrong, a sister of one of the murdered men, said the lack of resources was "a political problem".

"We are not going to lie down and accept it," she said.

"We will fight until we get another date and they have to make sure there are enough coroners in Northern Ireland to deal with our and many other cases."

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said he would be asking Justice Minister David Ford to ensure the matter was referred to the relevant authorities so that "action can be taken as soon as possible".

"Justice has been denied for almost 40 years and it is totally unacceptable that this inquest should be delayed further due to the unavailability of a coroner," he said.

"This was one of the most shocking and cruel events of the Troubles and the inquest must be treated with the seriousness this crime merits."

A Department of Justice spokesman said: "Officials are actively working to ensure that all necessary resources are provided for the conduct of inquests in Northern Ireland.

"There are currently three full-time coroners in Northern Ireland. In addition, one High Court judge and one County Court judge have also been appointed as coroners."