Kingsmills Massacre: Sectarian attack on memorial to IRA victims

Vandalised memorial IRA graffiti was scratched into the plaster of the new memorial to victims of the 1976 attack

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A memorial to IRA murder victims has been vandalised in a sectarian attack in Bessbrook, County Armagh.

It commemorates the Kingsmills Massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead as they travelled home from work together in 1976.

Sectarian graffiti has been scratched into the plaster of the memorial, which is undergoing construction work.

Danny Kennedy MLA, who has campaigned on behalf of the families, said he was "absolutely appalled by the attack".

The Ulster Unionist representative also claimed that there was an attempt to "intimidate" construction workers at the memorial site, prior to the graffiti which appeared on Friday.

'Desecration'

The gun attack on 5 January 1976 was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Kingsmills victims

Joseph Lemmon, whose wife was at home making his tea

Reginald Chapman, a Sunday school teacher who played football for Newry Town

Walter Chapman, younger brother of Reginald

Kenneth Worton, whose youngest child had not yet started school

James McWhirter, who belonged to the local Orange lodge

Robert Chambers, still a teenager and living with his parents

John McConville, who was planning to train as a missionary

John Bryans, a widower who left two children orphaned

Robert Freeburn, who was also a father of two

Robert Walker, the driver of the minibus

The textile factory workers were travelling in a minibus along the Whitecross to Bessbrook Road in rural south Armagh when their vehicle was ambushed by up to a dozen gunmen.

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

One man survived the attack, but was shot 18 times.

Last year, an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) concluded that the IRA was responsible for the atrocity and that victims were targeted because of their religion.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Kennedy said: "The republican cowards responsible for this desecration have once again shown the sectarianism that still spews from some sections of the community.

"Not content with the Provisional IRA having robbed the Kingsmills families of their loved ones in an act of sectarian savagery, Irish republicans have attempted to heap further pain on them by attempting to intimidate the workers erecting the memorial and then returning later to deface it," the UUP MLA said.

'Absolutely disgraceful'

Sinn Fein Councillor for the area, Turlough Murphy, has also condemned the attack.

Kingsmills minibus Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead when their minibus was ambushed by IRA gunmen in 1976

"It's absolutely disgraceful that this type of activity would happen.

"It doesn't serve any cause, it doesn't do anything only hurt those whose loved ones' this monument represents," Mr Murphy said.

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said he was "appalled and disgusted" at the sectarian vandalism.

"Those behind this graffiti do not represent us - they represent a retrograde mentality bent on fostering division, but let me send them a very clear message: they will not prevail," Mr Bradley said.

He urged anyone with information about the attack to contact the PSNI.

In a statement, the police said they were "appealing for information following an incident of criminal damage to a memorial in the Kingsmill Road area of Bessbrook on Friday 30th November".

A PSNI spokesman said they had no further information on the claim that workers had been intimidated at the site.

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