Kennedy blasts Sinn Fein and SDLP over Kingsmill march opposition

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Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
News, Politics

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy has registered his disgust after Sinn Fein and SDLP united in opposition to a Kingsmill commemoration march through Whitecross on 25th February. The Kingsmill massacre – which the Historical Enquiries Team described as “sectarian savagery” – took place on 5th January 1976 and although denied to this day by the Provisional IRA, many have attributed the carnage to them, despite an organization calling itself the ‘South Armagh Republican Action Force’ claiming responsibility. Twelve men were on a minibus from work in Glenanne going to Bessbrook when stopped by republican militants, masquerading as a British army checkpoint.

The occupants of the mini bus were lined up against it, assuming they were being checked and searched by the British Army, UDR or RUC. However, one of the gunmen ordered Richard Hughes (the only Catholic on the bus) to step forward and immediately the eleven remaining Protestants feared they were dealing with a loyalist paramilitary group. The lead gunman told Hughes to leave the area immediately and “don’t look back”. The eleven remaining Protestants were shot, with a total of 136 live rounds being fired in less than a minute, with only one man (Alan Black) surviving, despite being shot a staggering 18 times.

The Kingsmill march, which will retrace the route of the minibus used by the ten slain Protestants, was described by Danny Kennedy as a ‘victims march’. The Newry and Mourne UUP MLA stated, “This is a victims’ march to reflect the atrocities in south Armagh, including Kingsmill. Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP are guilty of attempting to raise the temperature here but I very much hope that that can be avoided. I think people need to be careful that they do not dismiss the legitimate victims in south Armagh from the unionist perspective.”

The UUP assemblyman is campaigning for “maximum justice” for the families of those who were murdered. He has been pressing for Taosieach Enda Kenny to meet the Kingsmills families, as the killers escaped arrest by hiding in the Republic, according to the Historical Enquiries Team. Last week Mr Kennedy publicly slated the Irish Government for giving him eight months of “holding replies” to his requests for such a meeting with the relatives.

Just two days ago, Newry Times reported about a well attended meeting of the Parades Commission held in Whitecross Community Centre to enable concerned residents to put across their views on the upcoming march. Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said at the meeting: “The organiser of this rally has applied for a march with up to 11 bands on a route which passes through Whitecross, an overwhelmingly nationalist area and past the homes of seven members of the Reavey family. I am here this evening in support of the hundreds of residents of Whitecross and the surrounding areas who have come here tonight in such numbers that many are standing halfway down the stairs. These people are adamant that this march should not go through this area.”

He continued, “The organiser of this rally has applied for a march with up to 11 bands on a route which passes through Whitecross, an overwhelmingly nationalist area and past the homes of seven members of the Reavey family. The community here are opposed to this and I support them. This march is intended to intimidate the nationalist community and stoke up sectarian tensions in a mixed area where people of different traditions live peacefully side by side.”

Local Sinn Féin councillor Jimmy McCreesh, who also attended the meeting, added, “I have represented this community for the past 15 years and in that time I can say that I have worked for as many families from the unionist tradition as I have those of a nationalist persuasion. There are never any problems or issues here and that’s the way this community wants things to stay. I am sure that the Parades Commission are in no doubt of the views of the people here and they must now take the sensible approach and reroute this march.”

In a statement released yesterday following Sinn Fein’s meeting with the Parades Commission, Newry and Armagh MP Mr Murphy said he hoped “common sense” would prevail in their determination. Mr Murphy said: “This was another opportunity for residents and myself to put forward our views that the people of the area want to be left in peace — they do not want this march through this area. The local community believe that the march is intended to ignite sectarian tensions and the organisers are using the families who lost loved ones at Kingsmills.”

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley agreed, stating, “The community here are opposed to this and I support them. This march is intended to intimidate the nationalist community and stoke up sectarian tensions in a mixed area where people of different traditions live peacefully side by side. My view is that he’s [Willie Frazer] simply using the victims as part of that campaign.”

The Parades Commission has yet to reach a decision.


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